The Adventures of Wolfboy, also known as The True Adventures of Wolfboy, is a 2021 coming of age style drama and the feature film debut from Czech director Martin Krejcí. It follows Paul, a teenager with a life-changing physical condition called congenital hypertrichosis that causes an abnormal and excessive amount of hair growth across his entire body, as he journeys to meet his estranged mother.
Paul (Jaeden Martell) lives an isolated life with his father in New York, where he hides away from everyone and only ventures out under the cover of a woolly balaclava, despite his father’s (Chris Messina) attempts to coax him into accepting his condition and revealing himself to the world. After a failed trip out to the local carnival for his 13th birthday, Paul returns home to find a mysterious gift from his mother (Chloë Sevigny), who he’s never known as she left when he was a child. Following a confrontation with his father over his proposal to send him to a special school, Paul runs away from home in search of his estranged mother. Along the way, he meets a number of colourful characters including carnival owner Mr Silk (John Turturro), complicated and friendly Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore) and the daring and roguish Rose (Eve Hewson).
The Adventures of Wolfboy is undoubtedly a film for young adults or teenagers, meant as a coming of age, ‘accepting yourself’ type of road movie and in this it succeeds, although its message is rather more subtle than you’d expect. It expertly deals with the theme of loving yourself and others just as you are in a very low key manner, to the point where you almost miss the subtle hints at a character’s backstory (which is definitely true for Aristiana). For some, this might be a problem, but a lot of films go out of their way to be heavy-handed, virtually shoving a message down your throat so for me, I enjoyed the subtleties on display here. They’re helped by an unassuming performance from Jaeden Martell and charismatic turns from both Eve Hewson and Sophie Giannamore, who altogether with a story that doesn’t play out quite as predictably as first thought, make this an entertaining and heartwarming watch.
That said, despite the well-meaning and heartwarming intentions, this film does falter. The title itself and the fairytale storyboard chapter titles throughout the film give this a magical sense of fantasy that just doesn’t quite materialise. I feel like it’s meant to be whimsical and adventurous, but the actual finished article falls short. It isn’t helped by John Turturro’s Mr Silk, who despite being the villain just comes across as weird rather than sinister, and what becomes of his character is a little lacklustre too. Generally, it feels like it’s missing some ‘oomph’, a magical whimsical boost to turn this into something more than an average coming of age movie.
The Adventures of Wolfboy is a nice heartwarming film, and it’s refreshing to see a subtle take on a subject that has been done many times before. I just wished they’d have taken the magical and whimsical angle further, as this would have made it more than just average.
The Adventures of Wolfboy will be available on digital download from March 15th
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