THE STORY – Follows a young boy who runs away from home in the search of his estranged mother.
THE CAST – Jaeden Martell, Chris Messina, Eve Hewson, Sophie Giannamore, Chloë Sevigny & John Turturro
THE TEAM – Martin Krejčí (Director) & Olivia Dufault (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 88 Minutes
By Kaiya Shunyata
13-year-old Paul (Jaeden Martell) doesn’t have an easy life. He’s bullied, his mother left him and he has hypertrichosis – a rare condition that sees Paul’s entire body and face covered in hair. A few days before his birthday, a package arrives. Inside, it shows a map to Pennsylvania that reads: “When you’re ready, there’s an explanation.” That night, when his father (Chris Messina) shows him a video for a special school – akin to “X-Men’s” Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – Paul decides enough is enough and he runs away, hoping the mysterious package has been sent by his estranged mother.
Having nowhere to turn and realizing he has no money to travel, Paul quickly finds refuge at a local carnival. It’s owned by the wispy and mysterious Mr. Silk (John Turturro), who promises Paul enough money to buy him a trip to Pennsylvania if he joins the circus as an act for the night. After hours of misery and exploitation, he demands the money he earned but is ridiculed. With no other option, Paul lets his anger and betrayal take over, and decides to set the carnival ablaze. This sets off a wild chase between Paul, Mr. Silk, and more misfits that join the quest, making “The True Adventures of Wolfboy,” a fun and tender-hearted coming-of-age story.
While the film stumbles a bit after its first act, it finds its footing once Paul meets Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore), a girl who discovers Paul sleeping in her dog house. Aristiana, like Paul, is an outcast: as she joins him in running away, we discover that her transphobic mother cut her hair the night before, in an attempt to make Aristiana act “normal.” She escapes into the persona of a mermaid at a local gay bar, and shows Paul a community full of acceptance and joy – even if it is just for one night. Martell and Giannamore have fantastic chemistry and perfectly embody the way lonely teenagers latch on to each other, as Aristiana and Paul try to find out where they belong in the world.
The best thing about the film is its inherent strangeness. Just when you think, “Ok, this is a kids film,” it gets jarringly dark. It’s filled with strange characters such as modern-day pirates and doesn’t leave any talent wasted. Each character has a hand in Paul’s journey, as well as their own. While it’s aimed at younger audiences, older generations too can find something within this film. It’s wacky as much as it is tender, making for a perfect watch no matter your age. There’s a scene between Paul and his mother (Chloë Sevigny) at the end of the film that is filled with so much hesitancy and tension, it makes you feel like you’re watching something completely different than you were minutes ago. While this could result in disaster, director Martin Krejčí balances these aspects masterfully.
From hand-drawn title cards signifying the film’s different chapters, to themes of belonging and love presented throughout, “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” is a modern fairytale. It’s filled with a childlike hopefulness, but it still manages to never stray from the world’s harsh realities. Martell and Giannamore harness great performances and propel the film into a realm different from other family films that have landed lately. With this film, Krejčí crafts a joyous and wacky tale about acceptance and belonging that demands to be seen.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A heartwarming film that is filled with charm and solid performances from the ensemble cast.
THE BAD – The film stumbles a bit while its first act transitions to its second.
THE OSCARS – None