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TIFF Review: ‘Wolf’ is an Identity Crisis Drama That’s All Bark and No Bite

December 2, 2021Ben MK

From films and television shows to comic books and advertising, it seems that the mainstream media has finally begun to accept and embrace transgender and non-binary people, with actors like Supergirl's Nicole Maines and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's Lachlan Watson helping to represent and raise awareness for the LGBTQ community. In Wolf, however, writer-director Nathalie Biancheri takes a somewhat indirect approach, as she tells the story of one man's struggle with society's expectations and his belief that the body he was born into is not his own.

Jacob (George MacKay) is not your ordinary Millennial. Though his outward appearance gives the impression of someone you might expect to see walking down the street in London's financial district, he feels more at home prowling on all fours through the woods. It's a condition the medical community has termed species dysphoria, and for Jacob, it means that while the rest of the world may view him as a human, he actually views himself as a wolf trapped in a human's body. Admitted into a behavioral rehabilitation facility specializing in the treatment of those suffering from similar beliefs, Jacob soon finds himself at the mercy of the Zookeeper (Paddy Considine), a psychologist whose unorthodox and oftentimes cruel methods involve imprisoning his patients in cages. But when he meets a fellow patient named Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp), Jacob discovers in her a kindred spirit with whom he can finally be his true self. Together, the pair plot to escape the Zookeeper's clinic so that they can live their lives on their own terms. But when the time comes, will they actually end up going through with it?

What follows doesn't directly address transgender issues, but it's impossible not to view the result through any other lens. Unfortunately, aside from its analogous approach to what is undeniably topical subject matter, the movie fails to provide any truly insightful commentary. Make no mistake, Wolf benefits from an interesting premise, but it's an effort that ultimately proves sheepish and unsatisfying, both for its characters and for viewers.

Wolf screened under the Special Presentations programme at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and is in theatres December 3rd. Its runtime is 1 hr. 38 min.

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