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"WOLF"
(2021) (George Mackay, Lily-Rose Depp) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young man who believes he's a wolf is placed into a rehab facility with other like-minded teens and kids who must contend with an aggressive conversion therapy used on them.
PLOT:

Jacob (GEORGE MACKAY) is a young man who believes he's a wolf trapped in a human's body and thus often behaves like such an animal. His parents have now committed him to a rehab facility where the staff -- including Dr. Mann (PADDY CONSIDINE) and Dr. Angeli (EILEEN WALSH) -- use various forms of conversion therapy on the patients under their care. They include Judith (LOLA PETTICREW) who believes she's a parrot; Louise (ELSA FIONUIR) who acts like a horse; Jeremy (DARRAGH SHANNON) who envision himself as a squirrel; Rufus (FIONN O'SHEA) who acts like a German Shepherd, and Annalisa (KARISE YANSEN) who thinks she's a panda.

But the patient who Jacob views as a kindred spirit is Cecile (LILY-ROSE DEPP), a young woman who thinks she's a cat and has lived at the facility for most of her life. As Jacob tries getting used to his new situation, he and others must contend with Dr. Mann's confrontational and aggressive approach in breaking their delusional state.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Maybe it stemmed from having grown up watching the goofy TV show "Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp" and Cheeta the chimp in those old "Tarzan" movies or some other reason long since forgotten, but I briefly went through a spell early in my freshman year at college when I'd lope around our dorm lobby like a chimp, mainly to entertain a girl I was interested in a goofy and playful way.

She seemed to enjoy that behavior, but then again maybe she was just humoring me while inwardly being horrified that something was a little -- or maybe a lot -- off with me. Or that perhaps I suffered from "species dysphoria," "otherkin" or "species identity disorder."

I have to admit I'd never heard of any of those -- and I graduated with a psychology degree -- and I couldn't tell you if any of those terms are professional labels or just self-named conditions by those who view themselves as part or full animal trapped in a human body. Whatever the case, the third named condition above generates the underlying premise of the new movie "Wolf."

In this offering from writer/director Nathalie Biancheri -- that is not a remake of the 1994 horror film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer -- George MacKay appears as Jacob, a young man with wolfish tendencies. His parents have just institutionalized him in a facility known as the "zoo" where the "zookeeper" -- a.k.a. Dr. Mann (Paddy Considine) -- has a passive-aggressive approach in trying to cure his patients.

Despite his need to howl in the middle of the night and scamper around on all fours, Jacob eyes the rest of his fellow patients as if they're a menagerie of looney birds. Okay, only one identifies as a bird -- that would be Judith (Lola Petticrew) who dresses and acts like a parrot -- but there's otherwise a wide cross-section of animal types represented including a horse, German Shepherd, panda, squirrel, and so on.

Dr. Mann's approach is to prove to his patients that they aren't what they think they are, such as having Squirrel Boy climb a tree the way a real rodent would. That's something that Cecile (Lily-Rose Depp) has seen time and again, what with having lived at the facility for as long as she can remember while thinking that she's a feline.

Notwithstanding Dr. Venkman's faux outcry about dogs and cats living together (in "Ghostbusters"), she and Jacob hit it off. That is, as you might expect two different animal species to do so, starting with some instinctual meets sort of erotic sniffing. Yes, you read that right and yes, it comes off as weird on the screen as it does in writing. And no, Jacob never turns into a werewolf for that or as I was half expecting to deliver some lupine comeuppance toward their abusive handler.

If I had to guess, it would be that Biancheri is using all of this as a parable to mock or shed a light on gay conversion therapy, but then again maybe she or someone she knows suffers from the cognitive disorder and wanted to represent it up on the screen. Or maybe it just sounded like an interesting kicking-off point for a decidedly unusual flick about mental illness and the places that house and treat such people.

As I never found myself emotionally engaged in the characters or the story, the flick came off as an oddity, not unlike those who identify as some sort of animal. And for that, "Wolf" only rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed November 30, 2021 / Posted December 3, 2021


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