A New Kind of Wilderness

Norway | 2024 | 84 min. | Silje Evensmo Jacobsen

In the vast Norwegian wilds, five family members navigate grief and what “home” means after the loss of the mother who had served as the family’s glue. Winner of the World Cinema – Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2024.

The Payne family at center of this documentary from Norway’s Silje Evensmo Jacobsen appears to be living the idyllic pastoral dream. Maria and Nik take their four children on nature walks, teach them farming skills, and home-school each one without a video screen in sight. Soon, however, we see images of Maria enduring chemotherapy injections. Eventually, she is gone, existing only as a gaping wound in a grieving family unit. While a devastated Nik struggles to keep the unplugged lifestyle going, the eldest daughter, Ronja, moves in with her biological father, leaving her younger half-siblings to stay behind with their dad. Nik, a British expat, runs into financial troubles, reluctantly enrolls his kids in public school, and expresses a desire to return to England. The film has no overt message about sustainable living; the Paynes, after all, own a car, slaughter animals, and use Wi-Fi. Jacobsen is instead concerned with coping after tragedy, focusing most poignantly on Ronja and her adoring little sister, Freja, who mourns not only their mother but the loss of her sole remaining female family tie. This moving, melancholy doc effectively shows how blended families can navigate new paths ahead, even when their north star burns out.

—Randy Woods

  • Director: Silje Evensmo Jacobsen
  • Country: Norway
  • Year: 2024
  • Running Time: 84 min.
  • Producer: Mari Bakke Riise
  • Cinematographers: Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, Karine Fosser, Fred Arne Wergeland, Espen Gjermundrød, Line K Lyngstadaas, Natalja Safronova
  • Editors: Kristian Tveit, Christoffer Heie
  • Music: Olav Øyehaug, Daniel Norgren
  • Awards: Sundance Film Festival 2024 (World Cinema Grand Jury Price: Documentary)
  • Filmography: Faith Can Move Mountains (2021)
  • Language: Norwegian, English
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • International Sales: DR Sales