"Wolf" is a movie that is great when considered for all of its hairless yet furry moving parts, which persist in your head, in your movements, in your dreams even. Nathalie Biancheri’s “Wolf '' is both a docile and beastly ride from the start. It’s a chance for viewers to understand the vision of Biancheri, who is credited as writer and director. While exploring magnificent characterization, and piecing together what treatment means for its patients, “Wolf” accomplishes its short tale but doesn’t leave you with a guided feeling on identity and representation that was set up at first. Or maybe it does, but the profoundness is layered, and returning to it in your head is all you can do once those credits roll.
From the start, your time isn’t wasted bringing you to speed, instead, you’re right beside the protagonist Jacob (George MacKay, 1917), who believes he is a wolf, as he is dropped into a facility that treats individuals in the same boat. There he goes through the motions of behaving humanly, even as his surrounding peers demonstrate their levels of control (and lack thereof) over their animal urges. Patients in the treatment facility interact with a man dubbed “The Zookeeper” (Paddy Considine) the center's leading expert in this field of identity recovery.
I have to say, this is a movie that provides actors with the range to take their characters where they want, and their hard work hits the mark in every scene. From a German Shepherd feeling warmed by any form of praise to a parrot’s hilarious echo of words that float around them. This cast is phenomenal to watch, and it offers a great introduction to anyone unfamiliar with Lily-Rose Depp, who has done lead work in a few major pictures and some French films. George MacKay’s portrayal of this conflicted individual in Jacob, who is trying to denounce his howling identity, is seen in powerful shifts between day and night.
In the day Jacob is quiet, abiding, and committed to recovery. These are the moments we get to meet others and treat Jacob as a vehicle moving our eyes scene to scene. As the night approaches, the camerawork takes a literal shift and moves from stationary shots to handheld camerawork. The scenes where Jacob is dreaming, roaming and rubbing against the forest earth feel claustrophobic, and rightfully so. Jacob’s relationship with his wolf identity is understood. However, others have less of a defined relationship to their animals, like in Depp’s Wildcat identity. She is not as impulse driven as Jacob and can comfortably switch in and out when she’s on screen.
Biancheri has captured immense acting talent that is further complemented by the mundane and casualness of the facility, or zoo, they live in. Here’s the strike, as menacing and professional as he needed to be for the treatment process, the Zookeeper never made me feel like he reached the legendary status his colleagues held him to. He is pushed to limits where he might as well prescribe the treatment to himself too, which I couldn’t see fitting for the story.
Regardless, it's short (and it bites) and this thriller earned a 7/10.
“Wolf” opens in select theaters on Friday, December 3 2021. Follow me on Twitter @NoahsPlotting and you can tune into Plot Devices, a movie/tv podcast I cohost with critics Sam Incorvaia and Brandon King.