Limited theatrical run starting December 3, 2021
Available on Amazon Prime beginning December 10, 2021
“Wolf” is a movie that thinks it will run with the Pack. It aspires to be King of the Jungle (or Forest). But it turns out to be more of an Odd Duck. The ideas are played out in a super serious manner. There is an undercurrent of metaphor that is way too obvious. When a person wants to identify as something else, that is out of the ‘norm’. So, there is a place that ‘teaches’ a person (who identifies as an animal) to return to the normal social standard.
Jacob (played by George MacKay) has it in his head that he is a Wolf, and was placed into his human body by mistake. His parents have had issues with him. So, he is brought to a facility where he will be trained (programmed?) to become a regular person again. There are a lot of other clients in this place.
Some identify as a German Shepard (played by Fionn O’Shea). Another one identifies as a Parrot (played by Lola Petticrew) and yet another one as a Duck (played by Senan Jennings). Well, you get the picture. The clinic has a psychologist (played by Eileen Walsh) who tries to keep all of the patients under control. But the person is charge is called the Zookeeper (played by Paddy Considine).
The idea of ‘species dysphoria’ is a condition that brings all of these individuals together for this unusual treatment. Jacob writes all of his private thoughts into a journal. But all of his desires are to get out of his dysfunctional body. He would rather be in the body of a Wolf, because that is what he believes that he really is — deep inside. He struggles each night to prevent himself from howling at the moon. He would rather saunter throughout the hallways at night on all fours. During this time, Jacob meets another patient. She identifies as Wildcat (played by Lily-Rose Depp).
Wildcat has a special status at the facility. She says she is not quite a patient, and yet not quite a staff member. However, she has access to many keys and knows her way around the whole place. She and Jacob explore the grounds, and even go up on the roof. Jacob s dead set on getting away as soon as he can. Wildcat says she wants to leave with him, but she is still very afraid of leaving a place that feel safe to her.
The Zookeeper has very harsh methods, and he is extremely cruel to many of the patients. He is full mocking support for each person’s desire to be the animal within. Yet he treats all of them with disrespect and makes them feel awful. Local villagers around the clinic will sometimes break into the yard and throw things at the patients. There are stories about one person who got out and was beaten up so bad that they could not movie. He was later found starved to death.
Jacob thinks these are just tales to scare the patients to wanting to stay. But when they are there, the treatment is just as bad as getting jeered by the locals. Jacob is very rebellious and the Zookeeper locks him in a cage. Wildcat is able to sneak in to see him. They plan to escape the facility and go out into the woods. There they can be free. But is that the way it will happen? Will two ‘animals’ out running free be able to survive with no way to get food or clothing?
“Wolf” is thinly disguised metaphor about people who will self-identify as ‘different’. Take that to mean about gender identity, or even people with mental issues or drug problems. The super serious way that the ‘facility’ operates is almost to the point of farce. The Zookeeper has ways to mistreat and demean the patients that would make Nurse Ratched green with envy. All of the people, who think they are animals, must be conformed by his methods. What could be a wild display of ‘Bad Improv’ is treated as gospel fact. “Now – act like a bratty teenager, but pretend you’re a Horse!”
George MacKay does an OK job, but there is nothing in this role for him to really do. The same goes for Lily-Rose Depp. Fine acting, but they both have nowhere to take it. Paddy Considine is the one actor who has meaning role, and he gets deep into it. He is usually quite scary, with his back-handed compliments and severe discipline methods. The movie has a strange atmosphere, with the clinic being an unusually cheery place to held prisoner…
“Wolf” wants to be the ‘Apex Predator’ of ‘mental hospital movies. But it seems to be more like the Sheep in Wolf’s clothing.
Written and Directed by: Nathalie Biancheri
Starring: George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, Paddy Considine, EileenWalsh, Fionn O’Shea, Lola Petticrew
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release date: December 3, 2021
Length: 98 minutes
MPAA rating: R for some abusive behavior, sexuality, nudity and language