Dec 23, 2021

Wolf (Natalie Biancheri, 2021)

 “One day... we’ll run wild together.”

When we’re first introduced to a protagonist, Jacob (George MacKay), he wears nothing but his birthday suit, surrounded by lush greenery of the forest. As he frolics in the dirt, believing to be a wolf, we can feel his joy and freedom washing all over us. However, his rapture turns out to be a short-lived reverie, because he is about to be institutionalized for the treatment of species dysphoria. Once he is caged under the wakeful eye of Dr. Mann aka The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine), he meets a lovely, enigmatic girl, Cecile (Lily-Rose Depp), who prowls the hallways at night, a wild cat hissing in her soul...

An allegory of identity / gender crisis triggered by a past trauma, or simply a middle finger in the ugly face of societal hypocrisy; an anti-conformist fable that dares to be different as in ‘self-consciously crazy and stubbornly defiant to so-called normality’? Regardless of what the answer may be, Wolf brings a breezy breath of fresh air to the world of arthouse dramas, flirting with mystery and even coming close to generate uneasiness characteristic of more atmospheric offerings in the horror genre. Although it rarely bites, this snarling beast often shows its sharp teeth, but also allows itself to be cuddly, if you’re willing to accept its imperfections. Embracing weirdness with its imagined paws, it earns comparisons to certain Greek films of recent times, particularly in its clean, starkly composed frames, yet it stands on its own (four legs). Topping the beautiful cinematography, clever production design, as well as excellent use of music is MacKay’s utter devotion to the demanding role which sees him howling, growling, micro-expressing, and mastering the wolf movements in what’s one of the best physical performances of the year. In his externalization of inner animal, Depp proves to be a perfect partner, at times invoking the melancholic spirit of Bartas’s muse Yekaterina Golubeva (1966-2011).

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