We have a new folktale in our midst thanks to director Martin Krejcí and screenwriter Olivia Dufault. Told in chapters, The True Adventures of Wolfboy follows a short time in the life of a young boy, Paul (Jaeden Martell), as he searches for his estranged mother. While the visual style and the story are not creating anything we have not seen before, the coming-of-age message still hits you right in the heart.
The film opens with the introduction of our hero as he faces his bullies in front of his father Denny (Chris Messina) at the local carnival. Paul has a skin condition that has his full body covered in hair so he resembles a werewolf. He goes on a journey with some newfound friends also seen as the “outsiders” in the world – Aristiana, a transgender girl (Sophie Giannamore), and Rose, a nomadic troublemaker (Eve Hewson).
One of the bullies even ridicules Denny, asking him, “How did it feel when you screwed that dog and made him?” Even in Denny’s anger at the actions of the children, he acts gently toward Paul. At least, he thinks he does. I knew from that beginning that this was going to be a story full of care for the main character as he navigates the world. Messina might be the most surprising revelation of this film. His genuine approach to caring for his son, who begins the film wearing a ski mask in public to cover his face, makes your heart melt in every moment. Paul does not see it this way, though, as his father wants to toughen him up which Paul does not want to do.
Paul finds that the bullies and his father are too much for him, though, and runs away from home in search of his mother, back to the carnival where carnival leader Mr. Silk (John Turturro) takes advantage of him and puts him on display. Turturro plays the villain here, and plays well into the fantastical elements that the film employs to engage with the audience. He delivers menace and plays into the fun of his role, livening up what is otherwise a quite melancholic story.
Despite the assumption that the story would veer toward having the world accept Paul, we instead see him on the road to being able to accept himself. Part of that journey is in finding his mother (Chloë Sevigny) and understanding why she left. The conclusion we reach in the film focuses on a celebration of his differences in art, sentimentally echoed in the film itself. Giannamore’s inclusion in this as both a trans actress and character calls for praise in the effortless blend of humanity and fantasy in her mermaid dreams in the film – also celebrated in the art sprinkled throughout.
The visual effects on display are very naturalistic. The facial hair is a vital part of the character, but I do wonder how he would have looked with practical makeup effects. Martell carries the character and the film well, though, and the effects are well-designed. Amid the fantasy and the art, the film shares a message of compassion and humanity, one of budding friendship during the most important period of self-discovery. This is a worthy, precious watch for the whole family that will leave you ready to see Wolfboy’s next adventure.
Signature Entertainment presents The Adventures of Wolfboy on Digital Platforms 15th March
Review – ‘The Adventures of Wolfboy’
Reviewed online (screener provided by Signature Entertainment), March 5, 2021. Rating: Cert 12. Running time: 89 min.
PRODUCTION: (UK) A Signature Entertainment release of a Big Indie Pictures production in association with Particular Crowd. Producers: Declan Baldwin, Lauren Beck, Benjamin Blake, Josh Godfrey, Kimberly Steward.
CREW: Director: Martin Krejcí. Screenplay: Olivia Dufault. Cinematography: Andrew Droz Palermo. Editing: Joseph Krings. Music: Nick Urata.
CAST: Jaeden Martell, Eve Hewson, Chris Messina, Chloë Sevigny, John Turturro, Stephen Henderson, Sophie Giannamore.