Sunday, December 5

Wolf Review


Dir: Nathalie Biancheri

Starring: George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, Paddy Considine, and Eileen Walsh

1h 38m


"Wolf," from writer-director Nathalie Biancheri, begins with a young man named Jacob (George MacKay) being admitted by his mother (Helen Behan) into a treatment clinic. Jacob believes that he is a wolf trapped in a human body; he uses all four limbs to move around, growls when threatened, and will howl loudly at the moon. At the clinic, other patients exhibit similar behavior; an overachieving young man (Fionn O'Shea) barks like a German shepherd, a young woman (Lola Petticrew) squawks defiantly like a parrot, while a preteen boy (Senan Jennings) waddles around like a duck. Jacob grows close with a fellow patient named Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp), who assists in helping him find ways to unleash the animalistic urges that are forcefully, sadistically, prohibited by the therapy leader known as The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine). 


Nathalie Biancheri crafts an allegory about gender and sexual identity told within the confines of a conversion-therapy clinic with characters who have species dysphoria, a term used to define people who believe their body is the wrong species. The story is set in an interesting location inside a hostile clinic environment with an unfeeling staff and a cruel administrator. The facade of safety for this facility is undone by the cold walls and gloomy window views. When parental figures are taken away to discuss their child's care, the staff verbally shames the patient. It's difficult to watch how adults treat young people here. 


"Wolf" struggles at times to find which path it wants to take to tell its tale. In the beginning, Biancheri takes the deliberate approach of letting the environment take the viewer's grasp, a smart move considering the introduction of characters is a mix of jarring behaviors. However, once the film delves into the composition of the characters, specifically Jacob's struggle with the urges he is feeling, the focus becomes confused in a mix of different motivations. 


Early in the film, Jacob's journey feels like one of self-discovery. George MacKay does a fine job portraying Jacob, displaying the hesitancy with indulging in the activities at the facility while also being guarded about his inner urges. The film transitions from this meditative component and begins to lean into its doctor-patient conflict elements and the prison-verse-prisoner themes in the more abusive moments. It also introduces a confusing relationship piece with Lily-Rose Depp's character Wildcat that feels too underdeveloped to connect itself back to the story theme Biancheri is examining. 


The committed performances from the cast are exceptional; they are the strength holding the film's wandering narrative in place. MacKay and Depp have lovely chemistry, and they commit entirely to the subtle and blatant performance attributes. Paddy Considine is excellent as The Zookeeper, with domineering physical actions while spewing menacing discourses about acting "normal," he composes one of the most reprehensible villains in film for 2021.


"Wolf," in some places, has the mood of a horror film with its dark hallways, wicked caregivers, and howling man-beast. However, the scares are less unleashed monster and situated more within the social commentary for gender and sexual identity surrounding the troubling reality of hatred and prejudice experienced by these people. While Nathalie Biancheri proves a talented director of a cast of committed actors, the story wanders in too many directions and develops questions that become complicated to answer, ultimately muddling the presented metaphor. 


Monte's Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

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