I love stories of feral children and adults, which is what drew me to this movie. I have always found the idea of humans returning to a place of instinct fascinating. I suppose what underscores this movie is the fact that animalistic or not, all humans have needs and intent.
Chris – father
Val – Mother
Peggy – Eldest daughter
Carl? – Son
Trish – Youngest Daughter
Genvieve – Peggy’s Teacher
The beginning of the movie is the most mysterious. I am still unsure whether her child was killed by the wolf (as it was certainly still alive when she entered her cave), or if she killed the wolf and her child. Either way, she appears to have left it behind before being captured by Chris.
From the time The Woman is captured on, the misogyny of the house becomes more apparent.
The juxtaposition of The Woman who is self sufficient and a powerful survivor in her own right against the misogyny of the “real world” may be a bolder statement than intended. Though this particular movie deals specifically with female roles, I think it is important to point out that the same could be said for males. In the movie, the son is shaped by his environment in the same way the daughters are. I don’t know, however, if the same statement could be made with The Man.
The relationship between The Woman and the female characters, specifically the mother Val, shows them connecting on a human level, whereas the “evil” men find her to be property, and/or subhuman. This is evidenced in the way she is cleaned with the pressure washer.
It is at the time of her “washing” that The Woman first speaks, indicating that she had originated from a family of her own. Though the only words she speaks are “baby” and “please”, this indicates, at least to me, that she must have been somewhere between the ages of 6 – 12 when she found herself in the woods. I guess at these ages based on her recollection of language. I do not, however, understand where she would have become pregnant unless this is meant to indicate that there are more feral individuals in the world. I am hopeful that this is the case, as it could mean sequel potential.
An undertone I particularly enjoyed, was that of polygamy. The father, Chris, even jokes at this when the woman is dressed. Her clothes do appear to be similar to the “prairie garb” that one associates with polygamy and media. Whether or not a deeper meaning exists here on a spiritual view is not known. There is no real tie in with religion in the story other than pseudo-conservative values. Whether it also spoke to the relationship construct of The Woman and Val is also unknown.
The first mention of the “Dog Daughter” was during the fight between the parents. Anopthalmia is the condition Chris mentions as the “shame” Val passed on. This condition means the child was born with non-existent, or extremely underdeveloped eyes. As a precursor to this fight, Chris tells his son that he best look at him when he’s talking. This may speak to why Chris would have been unable to tolerate a female child that would never have to show him this respect. Why The Woman, and not the imprisonment of her child was the breaking point for Val seems extreme but nonetheless plausible. It is unknown, however, if she knew of the implied incest between Chris and his daughter.
The release of The Woman, resulting in those left standing was satisfying for the evolution of the story. The taking of the Dog Daughter (by offering of her father’s heart to devour!) and Trish by The Woman was surprising. Peggy’s choice to follow puzzled me further. While I found it a great way for the movie to end, I doubted they would continue to make a happy uncontacted family.
I found the extreme themes of femininity (daughter, mother, pregnancy, wife, modern woman, traditional woman, feral woman) seemed to be dominated by only one perspective of masculinity. While I understand this need for the purposes of the plot, it makes me wonder if this exclusionary theme undercuts its feminist objective.