December 3rd, 2021
STARRING: GEORGE MACKAY, LILY-ROSE DEPP, PADDY CONSIDINE, EILEEN WALSH
DIRECTED BY: NATHALIE BIANCHERI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
I must say that I respect and I understand the creative process with a movie like Wolf. A movie can be inventive, an artistic expression for both the actors and the director, while at the same time be a limited expression. That’s what Wolf is. I can see what actors George MacKay and Lily-Rose Depp saw in Nathalie Biancheri’s script, a narrative that attempts to question the mind, and the very concept of human identity. All of those things are true, and yet I was done with Wolf more than twenty minutes in, as it becomes a repetitive exercise with little results. This Wolf is better off left in the woods.
The opening shot is of a man, lying on the forest floor, rolling in the green grass, sniffing, and pawing at the ground like a dog. This is Jacob (MacKay), a twenty-something man that believes that he is a wolf. We’re catching him in his true element, but the narrative flashes back to the moment where his parents are admitting him to a facility, where they look after other people with the same affliction. It’s called Species Dysphoria and at this clinic he is not the only person that believes they are an animal. There’s a women that believes she’s a parrot. A man that thinks he is a horse. And on, and on. The doctor on staff- or “Zookeeper”- as he is called- is played by Paddy Considine, who uses a harsh method of treatment, by yelling at the subjects and putting them in awful situations where their human form does not allow them to do as their animal does. Jacob begins to change a little, cowering in his cell, and having a sense of failure in himself. He gravitates to Wildcat (Depp), a woman who believes she’s a cat; The two of them share their animalistic urges with one another, which stops the treatment from working, and when the two begin to break out, the “animals” of the facility begin to take over.
As I stated already, there’s plenty of artistic inspiration to be impressed with, including the work from McKay. Parts of Wolf are similar to a form of interpretive dance, a poetic expression of motion, where McKay’s limbs, back muscles flex and twist in a graceful prowl. We see his transformation slowly, often lit by the silver moon, howling at his cell’s window. It’s through McKay’s full commitment and director/writer Nathalie Biancheri attempting to dissect the concept of gender and identity. All of those things are good on the surface, but the more Wolf rolls on, the more we get the point. At one hour and thirty-nine minutes, Wolf would be better suited as a fifteen minute live-action short film.
It is through the vents where Jacob and Wildcat hear one another, sneaking off at night, and disobeying their treatments. As they escape from their domains, the less the therapy works at all, which also bleeds into the other patience. From a cinematic standpoint, Wolf takes a bit from Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or more recently Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. Those two films had much deeper characters, a more mindful plot, and a greater concept of human acceptance. Wolf undoubtedly has more potential, it just fails to tap into a deeper story.
At best, Wolf is an acceptable exercise for all of the artists involved. A part of me kept wondering if this would work better as an art exercise or if Biancheri turned this into a stage production. The thought of Wolf produced for an intimate audience, a tighter concept of abstract theater, and a grander show to display the excellent talent of George McKay, There’s an inspired spirit animal inside Wolf and unfortunately the final result is nothing to howl about.
WOLF IS NOW PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS.
Written by: Leo Brady