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Review: Wolf

Wolf is about species dysphoria, a term that describes those that feel they are animals trapped in a human body. It is difficult to watch the film and not think about it as a trans allegory. This is partly because the film takes place entirely at a conversion-therapy facitility, one of those places that tries to change people back to "normal." This is a tricky story to tell and while Wolf is good at making you feel sympathy for its characters, its lack of focus keeps the film from being as powerful as it could be.

The clinic where the film takes place is run by a sadistic man known as The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine). His approach is to humiliate patients into accepting their true selves as humans. He mocks and physically abuses them regularly. Jacob (George MacKay) identifies as a wolf and comes to the clinic in hopes to be cured. His parents want separately for him to have a good life. Jacob still can't fight the urge to crawl on all fours and howl at the moon. He begins to push back against the cruel nature of The Zookeeper once he meets a young female wildcat played by Lily-Rose Depp.

It is here that Wolf can't quite figure out what it wants to be. At times, it wants to be a patients vs doctors and nurses type of film akin to One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest. At other times it wants to be a romantic drama about how these to people can accept each other. Director Nathalie Biancheri is wise to give audiences time to adjust to the behavior onscreen, which can look like an acting class exercise at times. The film celebrates the desire to be fully oneself. However, the film doesn't have much more to say.

One of the reasons Wolf feels slight is that the characters are mere sketches. We don't learn much about Jacob, other than he wants to be a wolf. MacKay gives a physically committed performance here. He is compelling to watch but the script gives him almost no depth to work with. Depp is also good but there is a weird late-film shift in her character that doesn't work.

Wolf ultimately is worth checking out for the performances. However, it's heavy handed metaphor and lack of character depth keep the film from working as a whole. Biancheri is a talented director and visually, the film is often impressive. The screenplay however is where the film needs more work.



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