TIFF 2021: “Wolf”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Have you ever had such a feeling that nothing can surprise you anymore? Almost like, the cinematic universe has explored so many subjects, storylines and situations that can occur in life, all seem the same and repetitive? But that changes with Nathalie Biancheri’s thriller, “Wolf” which revolves around people with the species identity disorder.

“Wolf” follows a group of people that are locked up in a special institution that focuses on individuals with the species dysphoria disorder. Jacob (George MacKay) believes he is a wolf trapped inside the body of a teenager. Therefore, he is sent to “the zoo”, a clinic that provides a controversial and brutal treatment for the disorder. Each session is so cruel, it will make your blood freeze – a treatment that is drastic, dangerous and ineffective. But will it work this time? It will depend on a few factors, and the desire of patients is one of them.

“Wolf” is far from a comedy and there is nothing hilarious about characters you meet throughout, that act either like Rufus the German shepherd (Fionn O’Shea), Judith the parrot (Lola Petticrew), Ivan the duck (Senan Jennings), Jeremy the squirrel (Darragh Shannon), Louise the horse (Elsa Fionuir), Annalisa the panda (Karise Yansen), and Ola the spider (Amy Macken). One of the longest residents of the clinic is a mysterious patient (Lily-Rose Depp), who considers herself a wildcat.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking watching the entire film. There is no joy in seeing how the patients are being treated or showing the animal version of themselves through the documentary film. The scene when Jeremy was ordered by the lead doctor (Paddy Considine) to climb up the tree as if he was a squirrel was a tough one to process. At some point, the doctor says there’s always a point of no return, as he yells at Jacob. Indeed, there will be none. Because the clinic is not prepared to handle patients with such a complex disorder, and that becomes a fact towards a particular moment where there is no turning back.

Written and directed by Nathalie Biancheri, “Wolf” captures the unsettling reality of people who think they are animals wrongly trapped in a human body. But it also shows the long term effects of medical treatment on individuals that do not appear to seek help. But can we just leave them alone and send them somewhere into the jungle to live happily ever after as if they were animals? The question is d a difficult one to answer. The film does not even try to address the morality of the question. There are pros and cons in a narrative such as this, and Nathalie Biancheri cleverly handles that.

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