Wolf Turns Acting Practice Into Insanely Useless Feature

One of the many exercises that drama students participate in when learning their craft is pretending to be an animal. Among other goals, it allows students to explore their physicality and try to inhabit a being that is completely foreign to themselves. Although there are occasions when actors must play animals, exercise is rarely intended to be an explicit practice for such a role.

The new movie Wolf is like that acting exercise turned into a feature film, with all the excitement of an outsider watching the actors go through the moves. At the start of the film, Jacob (George MacKay) is taken to a facility for children and adolescents with species identity disorders – that is, people who believe they are animals.

There, Jacob meets other patients like Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp), who seems to have carte blanche in the establishment; the German Shepherd (Fionn O’Shea), who shares Jacob’s canine affinity; and Parrott (Lola Petticrew), who for some reason is allowed to disguise himself as her animal. The person overseeing the facility is the zookeeper (Paddy Considine), who poses as a publicly kind person when visiting parents, but often becomes sadistic when alone with patients.

Written and directed by Natalie Biancheri, the film will test the patience of all but the most ardent art film aficionados. This is because even though we spend a lot of time with the patients and the staff at the facility, nothing seems to be happening. What is mainly shown is the daily life of the group, which involves a combination of group therapy, patients allowed to rampage or staff indulging in ruthless treatment of patients.

What never becomes clear is the point of it all. On the surface, the way patients are treated makes no sense. It appears that there is no real attempt to rehabilitate any of them, and various patients are allowed to do very different things. Of course, since this is an art film, there may be a metaphor in the story somewhere, but it’s hidden among the histrionics.

The best that can be said of the film is that each of the actors is completely committed to their role. MacKay, who seduced 1917, goes all out in his role as a wolf trapped in a human, and so while the role doesn’t make sense, you can’t fault his performance. In Depp’s short career, she only played impenetrable characters, possibly drawing inspiration from her father, Johnny Depp.

Wolf is a movie that is only intended for a certain type of movie buff, and even those people can be taken aback by everything that is going on. The movie is a bear to watch, and you would have to be as wise as an owl to get anything meaningful out of it.

Wolf opens in select theaters on December 3.

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