Wandel’s movie is immersive and bruising, full of empathy for its young characters, and unrelenting in its depiction of the challenges they face. And it makes you wonder, with utmost sincerity—how did any of us ever reach adulthood in one piece?
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Playground smartly complicates the situation by showing how Nora juggles her desperate concern for her brother with a fear that his plummeting social stock might drag her into the same boat. It’s hard to watch, but Wandel doesn’t blink.
Playground is bleak, bleak stuff. It’s also electrifying.
Fashioned out of fresh faces unable to lie to the camera, “Playground” is a study in human behavior wrapped in equal parts fear and curiosity.
Wandel pulls no punches in her depiction, and both Leklou and Vanderbeque deliver performances well beyond their years.
Wandel’s immersive, impressive debut is rigorous in its resolute focus on one little girl fighting a lonely, frightened battle for her future selfhood, in which what hangs in the balance is nothing less than the shape and measure of her developing soul.
No one in this movie has a complete understanding of what’s going on, but Wandel proves that a sensitive enough camera can provide a fuller picture than most.
Despite its subject matter, Playground is not a call to action masked as a film. It’s a gripping work of observation more concerned with identifying patterns, teasing out motivations and laying bare the reality of how we come to relate to one another.
This is the first feature from the writer-director Laura Wandel, and it’s a knockout, as flawlessly constructed as it is harrowing.
While Wandel does well to leave some things to the imagination, like what happens beyond the schoolyard, she not-so-subtly nails the point home in the end, showing how all it takes is one person to stop bullying at its source. Still, her film is an arresting, eye-opening look at how violence begins at an early age, and how we can learn to be bystanders, or have the strength to speak out.