Toronto 2019: Jungleland

Jungleland. Courtesy of TIFF.

Jungleland is a film about about a pair of brothers traveling across the country while also touching upon themes of toxic masculinity.

Stanley Kaminski (Charlie Hunnam) and Lion Kaminski (Jack O’Connell) are a pair of brothers living in Massachusetts.  They’re down on their luck with the only hope of making money being a boxing match in San Francisco.  Easier said than done.  Lion is a boxer and Stanley acts as his manager.  If Stanley had his way, he’d open a dry cleaning business the very minute that the two set foot in California.  It’s wishful thinking but never say never.

If you think this trip is going to be the two of them, you better think again.  While Pepper (Jonathan Majors) gives them an out with the $100K boxing match in San Francisco, they are required to bring Sky (Jessica Barden) with them.  However, she is to be taken to Colonel Yates (John Cullum) in Reno.  There’s a lot here that makes you want to bang your head against the wall.  Nobody has any business saying that they own someone–least of all in 2019!  This is where the two brothers start to see things differently.  Stanley believes that they must drop Sky off in Reno while Lion thinks there are alternative choices.  Sky, however, ought to be in charge of her own destiny.

Even as the film comes to an end, you get the sense that both brothers have grown throughout this ordeal.  Lion might be a boxer but Sky sees a side to him that isn’t so toxic.  In the end, Lion makes the right call.  Stanley makes a decision that he knows is the right thing to do.

Through its themes, the film is a throwback to the 1970s.  These are characters that easily have appeared in films from that era.  It’s still very much a film for this day and age.  Stanley and Lion just want to live out the American Dream at the end of the day.

One would think that a film called Jungleland would feature the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name.  It actually doesn’t but this isn’t to say that Springsteen doesn’t have a presence here.  Springsteen’s cover song, “Dream Baby Dream,” featured on 2014’s High Hopes album is included in the end credits.

Jungleland isn’t your basic road trip movie but in the end, it’s about a pair of brothers wanting to live the American Dream.

DIRECTOR:  Max Winkler
SCREENWRITERS:  Theodore B. Bressman, David Branson Smith & Max Winkler
CAST:  Charlie Hunnam, Jack O’Connell, and Jessica Barden

Jungleland held its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.