Paul Dano gave himself quite the challenge for his directorial debut, adapting — along with co-screenwriter Zoe Kazan — Richard Ford’s bleak and meticulously structured novel “Wildlife.”

The story is about a teenage boy who has moved to Montana, only to watch his parents’ marriage deteriorate. The source material doesn’t exactly lend itself to a movie, but Dano felt that it would be perfect for his directorial debut.

“I saw a tremendous amount of love and compassion in the writing, equaled by a tremendous amount of struggle, which I also just found to be true in life, these American themes, The American Dream, the nuclear family, it’s always been something I loved and have feelings about,” Dano told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at TIFF. “The idea of making a family portrait just seemed like the right place to start for a filmmaker.”

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