Rating: B+

Wolf by writer/director Nathalie Biancheri (Nocturnal) is a dramatic narrative film that most certainly is thought provoking. A young man named Jacob (George MacKay, 1917) is taken by his parents to a “clinic” because he has identified himself as a wolf that was born as a human being. There aren’t many details about how long this has been happening, but the film begins with a naked Jacob out in a forest, enjoying the sun as he sniffs the air – but not quite as what humans are shown to do. It is quite evident that his parents are having a hard time leaving their son at this facility (especially his mama), but it pails in comparison to the pain Jacob and his fellow patients feel/display at the hands of the person identified as the “medical professional” for the young people and is known as “The Zookeeper” (Paddy Considine, How to Build a Girl, “The Outsider” TV series). I will avoid spoilers, but I can say my jaw dropped at the sight of his behavior with the patients to correct or cure their belief of their identity. The Zookeeper’s screaming is harsh enough, so any other of his actions toward the individuals may be a trigger for someone who can understand some of the feelings of identity described here. Although some scenes are difficult to watch at times, the performances of George MacKay, Lily – Rose Depp and Considine are extraordinary.

Of interest in the film is a term I was unfamiliar with – “species dysphoria” – a term for a disorder for what Jacob and the other patients are experiencing – where they believe they have been born into the body of the wrong species. Depp portrays a fellow patient (long term in patient) and goes by the name Wildcat, and she develops a bond with Jacob. There are hints in the script of what may have happened to her pre – admission, but she is not permitted to leave the facility. There is an excellent scene of when she moves into her cat mode as Jacob is at his peak of being a wolf. No other spoilers here!

In the “Zoo” there are other patients who identify as a dog, a bear, a spider and a bird to name a few who are treated by The Zookeeper and a therapist, (Eileen Walsh, “Women on the Verge” TV Series). All of the actors who portray the individuals with the identity listed here are also excellent and there is plenty they go through for the audience to have empathy for their daily life.

Additional cast includes Senan Jennings, Darragh Shannon, Elisa Fionuir, Lola Petticrew, Amy Macken, Fionn O’Shea and Karise Yansen, among others.

Wolf is a unique story that may not appeal to all audiences, but the performances, especially Jacob’s where his emotions are felt so keenly, is one that will leave the audience thinking deeply about those who have this or a similar situation in their lives.

The film is in theaters on Friday, December 3rd (domestically).

Source: Focus Features

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