Anthology films can be a mixed bag. A great story can be flanked by some inferior ones – even a single bad story can drag down the entire film. Fortunately, writer/director Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales subverts expectations – there isn’t even a slightly weak link in this series of darkly humorous stories.
The connective tissue of Wild Tales is revenge, though it never unspools the same way twice. Over the course of six stories, audiences meet a group of strangers who discover an eerie set of coincidences; a waitress who considers taking an extreme action against a customer; two angry men whose road rage against each other escalates; a man who takes on a bureaucratic system that ruins and rebuilds his life; a wealthy man conspiring to keep his spoiled son out of jail; and a wedding reception that goes off the rails.
The characters shift with each story, as do the locations and situations. Under Szifrón’s direction, though, the stories shift in clearly defined, but not jarring, fashion. The stories themselves unfold in different ways, which makes it hard to predict where a story will end. The victim doesn’t always win, for example. Wild Tales acknowledges that sometimes, the bully is just too powerful to overcome. Sometimes.
Wild Tales shows the power of a short story; when done well, it can establish a world, tell a story effectively, and satisfyingly conclude. With a wicked sense of humor and a tendency to go violent, Wild Tales lives up to its name, and regardless of language, offers a series of stories that can be appreciated universally.