When it comes to ready-made primal storylines, a Father and Son Lost in the Woods is tough to beat. The smartly low-key survival drama Walking Out boasts moments of eerie loveliness, a pair of solid central performances, and enough confidence in the primitive engine of its story to know when to leave things unsaid. It’s got the gift of stillness.
Adapting a short story by naturalist David Quammen, the plot follows a 14-year-old boy (Josh Wiggins) reluctantly accompanying his divorced woodsman dad (Matt Bomer) on a traditional Winter Moose hunt deep in Big Sky Country. After a freak encounter with some of Montana’s other notable wildlife leaves them both seriously wounded, the two must figure out how to do what the movie’s title says.
Directors/screenwriters Alex and Andrew J. Smith quickly set their premise up with a minimum of artifice, and then just seemingly capture what comes naturally afterwards. (The character motivations ring true throughout, which shouldn’t be unusual enough to mention, really.) The organic feel of the narrative is only boosted by the performers, who establish the yawning gulf between the characters even before things begin to go south. Bomer, especially, delivers an alternately scary and heartbreaking portrait of slowly eroding Alpha surety.
That would all be enough, probably, but what really makes Walking Out lodge in the memory is the film’s visual sense, which subtly tweaks the already gorgeous natural images to reinforce the mood: While the duo’s steadily worsening present-day situation drifts towards the existentially hyperreal, the father’s increasingly significant flashbacks to hunting with his own dad (Bill Pullman, perfect) sport a faded Rockwell calendar glow. The grim beauty of the illustrations put this exceptional Boys’ Life story over the top.