In “Wolf,” George MacKay plays somebody who thinks he’s the title character. (Focus Features)

In “Wolf,” George MacKay plays somebody who thinks he’s the title character. (Focus Features)

‘Wolf,’ a film about identity issues, is an unintentional howler

This misguided movie goes off the rails immediately and stays there throughout its running time.

  • By Adam Graham The Detroit News
  • Thursday, December 2, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

By Adam Graham / The Detroit News

In “Wolf,” George MacKay (“1917”) plays a character who believes he is a wolf. And it’s clear that MacKay has done the homework: he has adopted the mannerisms of a wolf, he crawls and moves his entire body like a wolf, he howls like a wolf. If he came out and said he watched 140 hours of wolf footage and lived with actual wolves to prepare for the role, it wouldn’t be surprising. His gives a mesmerizing, fully committed performance in a bizarrely misguided movie.

It’s misguided because writer-director Nathalie Biancheri doesn’t do an effective job of creating a realistic, believable environment for her characters. Unintentional laughs abound. If there’s a deeper metaphor to be mined, another layer of meaning to her work, it’s never clear what it is and the message is not properly conveyed. It’s a strange experiment with no clear payoff. The film, rated R for some abusive behavior, sexuality, nudity and language, opens Friday at the Alderwood Mall, Woodinville, Meridian, Seattle 10 and Thornton Place theaters.

MacKay is Jacob, who is seen crawling around a wooded landscape, naked, as the movie opens. Soon after his parents are committing him to a treatment center that specializes in patients with species identity disorder — in short, people who think they’re animals. Among his fellow patients are a person who believes he’s a dog, one who thinks she’s a parrot, one who swears he’s a squirrel.

Lily-Rose Depp plays Wildcat, a lifer at the center who believes she’s, well, it’s in her name. She takes a liking to Jacob and they sniff each other out, at first figuratively and then literally. They’re both trying to evade the scornful wrath of the Zookeeper, the forceful and often sadistic head trainer at the facility, who is played with seething menace by Paddy Considine. When Jacob lashes out in wolf mode, the Zookeeper has him locked up in chains and caged.

“Wolf” toes a line between serious and silly and more often than not falls flat into the latter. It’s a matter of tone, and while Biancheri surely doesn’t mean to mock her subjects, their portrayals, often stilted, are all over the place. By the time the group is doing aerobics to a Spanish version of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” it would be easy to say the film has gone off the rails, but that implies it was ever on them to begin with. True to its name, “Wolf” is a howler.

Talk to us

More in Life

Andrew Vait, left to right, Annie Jantzer and Linzy Collins of The Little Lies rehearses Monday evening in Everett, Washington on May 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Music at the Marina series concludes today with The Little Lies, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band.

Josh Haazard Stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at his home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

For your kids’ sake, stress less about their grades this school year

Don’t make a big deal over grades. Instead, encourage out-of-classroom activities and remember, learning is supposed to be fun.

At the prehistoric fortress of Dun Aengus, the dramatic west cliffs of Ireland meet the turbulent sea as Europe comes to an abrupt end. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Enjoy the simple life on Ireland’s starkly beautiful Aran Islands

Three limestone islands make up the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

American Queen changes COVID protocols; can I get a refund?

fter American Queen changes its COVID protocols, Patricia Voorhees Furlong and her husband want to skip their river cruise. Is that allowed? Or, will they lose out on $7,858?

Erika Weinert, an Everett-based mother, editor and now author, sits at her home workspace and holds her first published book, “Cursing with Style” on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
What the @#$%! Everett mom publishes a dictionary of curse words

Erika M. Weinert, 42, a copy editor who does business as The Werd Nerd, wrote “Cursing with Style.”

The 2022 Lexus GX has a 301-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and full time all-wheel drive. (Lexus)
Updated 2022 Lexus GX 460 expands list of standard features

Navigation and a 10.3-inch multimedia system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included.

Bruce Johnson has an exhibit on the history of clowns at the Lynnwood Library in Lynnwood, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Clown historian takes the funny business very seriously

Bruce Johnson, a.k.a “Charlie the Juggling Clown,” wants to pass his craft down to future generations.

Ella Larson, left, and Simon Fuentes sort through blueberries at Hazel Blue Acres on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fruits, flowers and bees aplenty in Arlington farm fete

First-ever event highlights local growers’ bounty and contributions to local community

A bald eagle flys over Howarth Park back to it’s perch on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Learn how to photograph birds in three-part workshop

Participants will learn to make appealing, sharp bird photos even if they are new to photography.

The Snohomish County PUD recently installed two electric vehicle fast chargers adjacent to public parking stalls on the north side of the Electric Building.
PUD installs fast chargers for electric vehicle drivers

Funding for the t62.5-kilowatt chargers came in part from fines paid by Volkswagen over its 2015 diesel engine scandal.

Airbnb host cancels, and now he has to pay $1,300 more

When Curtis Rahman’s Airbnb host cancels his reservation a day before his arrival, he tries to find a substitute apartment. But the new property is smaller and costs more. Is a $200 credit enough to make up for the trouble?