In today’s world, there’s often talk of what it means to live authentically. In Wolf, the newest film from writer-director Nathalie Biancheri (Nocturnal) hitting theaters this weekend, comes an unusual tale of identity and the determination to stay true to one’s self.

The film follows Jacob (George MacKay, 1917), a young man who believes he’s a wolf. His parents bring him to a treatment facility that focuses on individuals with species identity disorder in the hopes that their son’s animalistic tendencies will subside. Jacob initially seems agreeable to the idea of “getting better” for his parents, though his longing to be outdoors remains evident throughout his stay. 

Image courtesy of Focus Features.

At the facility, Jacob finds himself among a group of uniformed patients who believe themselves to be a German Shepherd, a squirrel, a parrot, a panda, a spider, a duck, and a horse. Different methods of therapy are led by Dr. Angeli (Eileen Walsh, Nicholas Nickleby) and Dr. Mann (Paddy Considine, The World’s End), ranging from reaffirming statements and journaling to more dangerous physical practices to encourage the denouncement of animal behavior in the name of “curing” their patients.

In between sessions, patients have space in the facility to roam and be active. They’re given tablets to play games on. “Technology reconnects us with our human sides,” Annalisa/Panda (Karise Yansen, Enterprice) explains to Jacob.

When Jacob crosses paths with Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp, Voyagers)—both on all fours—in the middle of the night, he doesn’t suppress his need to howl. This unexpected connection and desire to “run wild together” fuels Jacob to embrace his full self, even in the face of consequences.  

Though the film’s initial premise could have been easily written off, those who stay engaged are rewarded with a tremendous performance from MacKay. The actor has a knack for picking roles that are distinct, and Wolf allows him to showcase his versatility. Even with minimal dialogue, he’s able to thoroughly communicate to audiences what Jacob is experiencing.

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