October 28, 2020 The True Adventures of Wolfboy (Movie Review)
What do you do when all you want in life is to be a regular, ordinary, normal, boring kid and you are anything but? Jaeden Martell stars in The True Adventures of Wolfboy, which arrives to On Demand and Digital on Friday, October 30, 2020, thanks to Vertical Entertainment.
This is not a Halloween flick. Written by Olivia Dufault (Preacher series, Legion series), and marking the feature debut of Director Martin Krejcí (Pod praham short 1999, Little Secret short 2013), The True Adventures of Wolfboy is a coming-of-age search for identity. On the day of his thirteenth birthday, Paul (Martell: St. Vincent 2014, It 2017), who suffers from a condition known as congenital hypertrichosis—an affliction that causes an abnormal amount of hair growth all over his face and body—reaches a breaking point. Escaping Buffalo, New York, and leaving behind his single dad (Chris Messina: Argo 2012, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn 2020), he hits the road in search of his estranged mother (Chloë Sevigny: Big Love series, We Are Who We Are series) in Pennsylvania.
Across the roughly 380 mile journey, Paul encounters a cast of characters, from an evil carnie (John Turturro: Barton Fink 1991, The Plot Against America mini-series) to a beautiful mermaid (Sophie Giannamore: The Good Doctor series, Transparent series) to a neon pink-haired punk (Eve Hewson: Robin Hood 2018, Tesla 2020), each facing their own struggles. But their arrival into Paul’s world shakes up his outlook on life, and before his trip’s conclusion, he will find much more than his mother.
In light of the (finally) growing, visible representation of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s especially important to note that this is a film with a vivacious trans teen as one of its main characters. Perhaps more importantly, there are many parallels between Paul’s struggles and those of the lovely Aristiana (Giannamore), both teens trapped in a world that condemns them for being ‘different.’. Bless her heart, Aristiana grabs life by the horns and celebrates her differences, providing the perfect counter to poor, lonely Paul who just wants to hide beneath a mask.
In this, The True Adventures of Wolfboy is not some updated version of 1985’s Teen Wolf, which took a decidedly comedic approach to its material, or even the MTV series of the same name, which was more of a Supernatural Thriller. Krejcí’s film is an emotional, adolescent journey that finds its soft-spoken and bullied main character searching for, not just his mother, but also understanding and friendship. It’s a tale that is much more about personal growth than follicular growth, one that is apt to warm the hearts of anyone who has ever been called a freak or treated like an outcast.
In this modern day fairy tale about a boy who is helpless to change who he is, the kindly and somewhat naïve Paul (Martell) lacks in both experience and human connection. Having spent his 13 years hiding behind a ski mask, seemingly avoiding friendships for fear of rejection, he is desperate for a relationship beyond what he has with his father (Messina). Trapped in a cycle of self-loathing, at one point he even heartbreakingly states: “I don’t want to meet people like me, because I hate me.” Much like in life, each new person we meet can open up a whole new world; and, somewhat ironically, Giannamore’s Aristiana is that gateway for Paul. Facing a similar situation, but with a wholly different attitude, she is everything that he is not: bold, outgoing, a teen who prances into a bar and knows everyone inside. In love with the limelight, she performs a lip-synch routine to Goldfrapp’s “Annabel,” and holds her audience under her spell. Aristiana is one of those rare, inspiring teens that sees beauty in what many see as flawed, though, unfortunately, she also wants to kill her mother. But we all have our quirks, right?
The pair are countered by Turturro’s greedy Mr. Silk, the evil Dee Snider of carnies who wants to exploit Paul for financial gain. He stands as a bold representation of a world that sees only monetary value in our external appearances. And then there’s Hewson’s Rose, homeless and literally running from her troubles in her van. Yet, with all her issues, she sees what’s beyond the surface and shows respect and friendship to both Aristiana and Paul, no questions asked. Struggling to make peace with their own situations, Messina and Sevigny each play small but important roles as Paul’s parents, and Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences 2016, Lady Bird 2017) gives a truly touching performance as Paul’s grandfather.
In fact, it is Henderson who delivers one of the most touching lines of the film: “The world is going to be mean to us no matter what, so we can’t afford to be mean to ourselves.” A painfully true statement, it is this line that sits at the very heart of The True Adventures of Wolfboy and a lesson that Paul must learn through his adventure. In fact, through this roundabout tale, our Wolfboy discovers a whole new perspective on life thanks to the friends he makes along the way. And what experiences in life aren’t improved by sharing them with those who love you for you? For this, Cryptic Rock gives The True Adventures of Wolfboy 4.5 of 5 stars.