Wild Life Movie Review (2023)

“Wild Life” is a remarkable documentary that delves into the extraordinary love story of Doug and Kris Tompkins, two conservationists who dedicated their lives to preserving the planet’s natural wonders.

Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the film takes us on a journey spanning decades, showcasing the grandiosity of the land they fought to protect. With its personal touch and compassionate storytelling, “Wild Life” captures the essence of adventure, survival, and the power of love.

A Cinematic Love Letter to Conservation

From the opening scenes, it is evident that Jimmy Chin, a close friend of the Tompkins, narrates the documentary with humbled awe. The film introduces us to the breathtaking landscapes in Chile and Argentina, which serve as both a stunning backdrop and a subject of contemplation.

Chin’s personal connection to the Tompkins is evident as he embarks on a hike with Kris, reminiscent of a similar journey he took with Doug before his passing. This excursion becomes the loose framework for the film, complemented by heartfelt moments and a genuine love for adventure.

Balancing Adventure and Compassion

While not as vertigo-inducing as their Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi infuse “Wild Life” with their characteristic care and calculated storytelling. The documentary thrives as a survival adventure, highlighting the challenges faced by the planet itself.

It showcases the risks Doug and Kris took to purchase vast amounts of land in Chile, transforming them into national parks to protect them from destructive practices. Despite covering a vast territory in just 93 minutes, Chin and Vasarhelyi maintain a steady pace, keeping viewers engaged throughout.

Intimate Portraits of Love and Loss

Chin and Vasarhelyi’s intimate familiarity with Doug and Kris shines through in the documentary. They go beyond a typical director-subject relationship, referring to the couple by their pet names, Lolo and Birdy.

Through tender sequences, viewers witness the profound affection between the two conservationists and learn about Doug’s courtship of Kris during their business ventures. These personal moments are accompanied by heartfelt messages from the filmmakers themselves, adding another layer of emotional depth to the film.

Remembering Doug’s Legacy

“Wild Life” pays tribute to Doug Tompkins, a remarkable individual who made a profound impact on both the business world and the fight against climate change. Kris and interviews with their mutual friends, such as Rick Ridgeway and Yvon Chouinard, help paint a vivid picture of Doug’s adventurous spirit.

From his humble beginnings as a hiker and surfer to co-founding influential outdoor companies like The North Face and Esprit, the film showcases how Doug’s passion evolved, leading him to dedicate his life to preserving the environment.

A Nuanced Exploration of Conservation Efforts

The documentary handles its subject matter with the nuance and complexity it deserves. “Wild Life” avoids becoming an ideological advertisement or a mere biography of the people behind famous outdoor companies.

It highlights the genuine intentions of the wealthy Americans to purchase Chilean land for the benefit of the Chilean people, even in the face of resistance and the economic significance of mining in the region.

The film presents the mechanics of preservation without feeling like a sales pitch, urging viewers to contemplate the planet’s well-being.

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“Wild Life” is a captivating documentary that weaves together a love story, an environmental epic, and a tale of personal transformation. Chin and Vasarhelyi deliver a cinematic love letter to conservation, balancing adventure and compassion throughout. The film’s intimate portrayal of Doug and Kris and their unwavering dedication to the planet adds a profound poignancy to their story.

As viewers are transported through breathtaking landscapes and learn about the couple’s remarkable journey, “Wild Life” leaves us with a renewed sense of hope—a reminder that it is never too late to make a difference and find love, both in our lives and in the world around us.

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