‘Wolf’: Girl; Interrupted with an animal kingdom twist…
Film Review by Ashley Turner
Wolf (2021) is “a high concept arthouse drama about a boy who believes he is a wolf.” Written and directed by Nathalie Biancheri; starring Lily-Rose Depp, George MacKay, and Paddy Considine.
Wolf opens on an outdoor scene, artistically shot, where we are introduced to the naked (quite literally) truest form of our main character played by George MacKay. Almost immediately we see him be admitted to a rehabilitation facility with his parents urging him to find some sense of societal normalcy.
We soon learn that this facility specializes specifically in
rehabilitating and re-training humans that believe they are animals into being society-functioning human beings. Despite the initial pause from being introduced to a variety of characters with inner-animal identifications, one quickly finds a sense of sympathy and pity for the various patients at the clinic. An endearing german shepherd (O’Shea), duck (Jennings), parrot (Petticrew), and panda (Yansen) are but a few of the characters and portrayed as anything but comedic.
Throughout the course of the movie the main physician treating the patients, known as the Zookeeper (Considine), increases the intensity and consequences of the treatments that becomes calculating, manipulative, and outright abusive. The drama takes such a dark turn that it becomes horrific. Somehow through it all is an underlying love story that complements but does not overpower nor lighten the overall tone of the film.
A few performances to note: The well-written and executed delivery of Annalisa (the panda) played by Karise Yansen. Her character provides the balance needed to show that being different and not “societal normal” does not equate insanity or lack of awareness. Out of all of the characters, she seems to be the most aware and philosophically attune to the world around her. She embraces her inner difference and challenges it in a way that causes the viewer to pause and relate to that self-acceptance.
George MacKay is definitely an actor that puts a lot of research into his character and performance. Watching him roam around as Jacob who believes he is a wolf was absolutely fascinating. His captivating ability to contort his shoulders and torso to mimic the haunches and overall gait of a wolf was effective for selling such a wild (pun intended) character. Despite his limited dialogue, his ability to emote conveyed everything we needed to know about him.
The storyline was an interesting approach for commenting on society’s need to “rehabilitate”, sometimes to the point of downright torture and abuse, the abnormal misfits of the world. The characters were so well written, that despite their perhaps exaggerated conditions, the emotional attachment and sympathy for their plight and internal struggle was heartbreaking. While difficult to watch some of the treatment and torture the characters go through, the message being transmitted by the film is so well executed and clear. One could even see this as the ultimate notion of man vs our inner primal nature, the free spirit inside of us that yearns to break away from all of the human-constructed barriers of suffocating norms and just run free.
Wolf is a dark-film, artistically shot, with strong performances and a solid storyline. The tone is serious, extremely intense, and downright uncomfortable at times; but it is a film that challenges perspective while encouraging self acceptance...and I like that.
Perhaps Jacob best sums it up when he says, “I don’t want to just
survive; I want to survive as me.”
I would highly recommend watching this film.