The True Adventures of Wolfboy

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The True Adventures of Wolfboy
dir Martin Krejci
scr Olivia Dufault
prd Kimberly Steward, Josh Godfrey, Lauren Beck, Declan Baldwin, Benjamin Blake
with Jaeden Martell, Sophie Giannamore, Chris Messina, Eve Hewson, John Turturro, Chloe Sevigny, Michelle Wilson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Melissa Mandisa, Nick Pulinski, Colin Farrell, Samuel Fesmire
release US 30.Oct.20
19/US 1h29

messina hewson turturro

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The True Adventures of Wolfboy
Sharply well written and directed, this colourful coming-of-age odyssey is a gripping adventure populated with wonderful characters. Director Martin Krejci makes the most of the story's fantasy elements and draws particularly strong performances from the young cast. With echoes of Pinocchio, this is a stylised parable about marginalised teens who just want to find their place in the world. And it's grounded in real issues and authentic, engaging characters.
Living in isolation with his father Denny (Messina), 13-year-old Paul (Martell) has a rare condition called hypertrichosis, which causes excess hair to grow all over his body. Denny encourages him to embrace this with dignity, but Paul struggles to find friends and is mercilessly teased by his classmates. As Denny sends him to a special private school, Paul receives a map from the mother who abandoned them. So he runs away and find her. Along the way, he teams up with two other outcasts: trans teen "mermaid" Aristiana (Giannamore) and one-eyed "pirate" Rose (Hewson).
It's easy to understand why Paul wears a mask and spends much of his time in his fantastical imagination, which is reflected in lavish storybook title cards and a stream of magical touches, including excellent hair and make-up. While Paul gravitates to people who are outcasts like he is, adults continually misjudge him out of fear. Understandably, he feels more at home in a travelling funfair, where carny Mr Silk (Turturro) thinks he's beautiful and immediately sets out to make money from him.

Martell grounds Paul with a thoughtful performance, revealing inner feelings alongside his charming, boyish physicality. And yes, he does sometimes look like an adorable puppy. His chemistry with Giannamore's emotive Aristiana is powerful, as both underplay what sets them apart, adding a universality to the themes. Other characters are broader, from Turturro's Stromboli-style predator to Hewson's flame-haired party girl, who initiates a perhaps too-jolly crime spree. Later, Sevigny and Henderson bring a warmly unexpected kick.

The script works perhaps a bit too hard to generate unnecessary tension, as Paul is pursued by Denny, Mr Silk and a tenacious cop (Wilson). The story is much stronger in its dramatically resonant moments, focussing on the youthful protagonists' perspective without getting bogged down in grown-up logic. In this sense, the film is a clever exploration of kids struggling to be who they are when the world says they need to change. So deciding to live openly as themselves is an inspiring act of courage

cert 12 themes, language, violence 26.Oct.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall