Wolf: Conversion Therapy Flick Is No Howler

George MacKay stars as “Jacob” in director Nathalie Biancheri’s WOLF, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Conor Horgan/Focus Features.

The conversion therapy flick, Wolf, is certainly no howler nor is it the kind of film you’d bark home about, maybe you’ll growl.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m trans and grew up lying to myself at night but this film just didn’t hit with me. Yeah, I know that gender dysphoria is a thing because of my own lived experience. Species identity dysphoria comes off as an entirely different ballgame. Is it okay for me to think or say that someone thinking they are another species is mentally ill? I don’t know. To tell you the truth, I’ve never heard of the concept before now. It seems that people really believe they are animals or maybe there’s some sort of psychological trauma that leads to such behavior. I can understand how one’s brain formation can lead to someone identifying as transgender. Science shows why this happens. But species dysphoria? I don’t know how or why this happens other than it’s a serious mental illness.

The gist of the film is that Jacob (George MacKay) believes he is a wolf in a human body. He behaves in a way that wolves do by sleeping in the while and then going outdoors to howl at night. Because of this, his family sends him to a facility, At the True You, that specializes in treating this concept of species dysphoria. It’s at the clinic where Jacob meets other patients identifying as a Duck (Senan Jennings), Squirrel (Darragh Shannon), Horse (Elisa Fionuir), Parrot (Lola Petticrew), Panda (Karise Yansen), Spider (Amy Macken) and German Shepherd (Fionn O’Shea). Dr. Angeli (Eileen Walsh) works as a therapist in hopes of getting them outside of this mindset. She’s the good cop to clinic director Dr. Mann’s (Paddy Considine) bad cop.

The no violence policy on the premise results in Jacob being locked in cage like Hannibal Lecter. Jacob realizes that if he wants to be himself, he’ll have to escape. But anyway, Jacob befriends Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp) and soon starts falling for her. She’s been living there for a long time and shows no signs of graduating anytime soon. Can they end up together? Who knows.

The difference between Dr. Mann the Zookeeper and the likes of conversion therapists in Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post is that Dr. Mann doesn’t appear to be a therapist who previously experienced species dysphoria. No, he built the clinic from the ground up because of knowing someone who suffered such dysphoria. Furthermore, he uses the type of cruel means we don’t even see in those films. He treats them like animals, going so far as to keep people on a leash and walk them like a dog.

This isn’t going to be a film for everyone. It also drags a bit at times where you feel that yes, it’s okay to go to the restroom and not miss anything. You’re best off waiting for home video if you do want to check it out.

CAST: George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, with Eileen Walsh and Paddy Considine

Focus Features releases Wolf in theaters on December 3, 2021.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.