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  Adventures of Wolfboy, The Dogged Determination
Year: 2019
Director: Martin Krejci
Stars: Eve Hewson, Chris Messina, Chloë Sevigny, John Turturro, Jaeden Martell, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sophie Giannamore, Roselyn Kasemire, Bob Rusch, Melissa Mandisa, J.J. Alfieri, Kate Thulin, Michelle Wilson
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Paul Harker (Jaeden Martell) just wants to be a normal kid, like all those other normal kids he goes to school with, but there's a problem: he is a sufferer of a condition known as hypertrichosis, which gives him hair all over his face and body and has ostracised him from his peers as a consequence. His father Denny (Chris Messina) tries to help his son, and today has brought him to the carnival to persuade him to take a trip on one of the rides, but Paul is deeply uncomfortable, wearing a balaclava throughout the experience and when he takes it off, the subject of so many stares that he eventually takes to his heels and flees. Alas, the bullies notice this and chase him into a chemical toilet, leaving him ready to give up on everything...

If The True Adventures of Wolfboy seems to be heaving with metaphor, then there was a reason for that, as it was written by playwright and television author Olivia DuFault as a method of getting across her experience as a transwoman and what it was like to grow up in that state. With that in mind, this was obviously a very personal film, and you would like to say it would increase the understanding from such a close perspective to the subject, but being so close appeared to blind her to the behaviour of her characters that many would find either baffling or downright obnoxious. Immediately from the first scene, with Paul being bullied for something he can do nothing about, you sense you should be feeling sorry for him, but then he makes some choices.

He receives a letter and a map apparently from his long-absent mother, telling him where to find her which for some reason he believes will solve all his troubles. Actually the person you start feeling most sorry for is Denny, who only wants his son to be happy but is at a complete loss as to how to make that happen, and when Paul lashes out at him, who is about the only person who accepts him and is even nice to him, you have misgivings about the teen. When he runs away, he goes to the carnival and meets John Turturro as Mr Silk, the owner, who is meant to be this sinister manipulator but instead comes across as a somewhat opportunist businessman: for giving Paul a job as a sideshow attraction, he is rewarded with the boy stealing all his money and burning the place down. Remember, this kid is supposed to be the hero.

The bad behaviour continues, and not just from Paul. He meets a young trans girl called Aristianna (Sophie Giannamore) whose gender has not been accepted by her mother, so in return the lady gets whomped with a plank of wood. This pair hang out at a bar, despite not being old enough to be served alcohol (and are anyway) where they meet Rose (Eve Hewson), a riot grrl whose idea of fun is armed robbery - which Paul and Aristianna go along with. These are the heroes! The script is peppered with soul-searching to make the characters come across as sympathetic, but there's not a lot sympathetic about them as they put you off at every turn. Really, it would have been preferable if the metaphor had been ditched and Aristianna had been our protagonist, since she is the most redeemable of the leads, but it pains you to observe how something so personal and well-meant went kind of wrong in the move from the mind to the page. Maybe something closer to a Tim Burton fantasy would have found the right tone? Music by Nick Urata.

[Signature Entertainment presents The Adventures of Wolfboy on Digital Platforms 15th March 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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