Coming-of-age dramas are frequent in the realm of film, and with so many of them portraying stories that strike at the heart of the teenage experience, it is crucial for this type of plot to stand out in order to draw in viewers. This very notion is taken rather seriously in director Martin Krejcí’s The True Adventures of Wolfboy, though the end result is a melancholic piece interspersed with tenderness and bizarre whimsicality, which stretches from the characters, the various circumstances our protagonist finds himself in, to the film’s editing and production design.
Starring Chris Messina and Jaeden Martell as a father-son duo, the film follows Paul Harker (Martell), a boy who is mercilessly bullied because of his rare medical affliction of congenital hypertrichosis, which causes an abnormal amount of hair to grow all over his face and his body. On the night of his thirteenth birthday, Paul receives a present from his estranged mother: a map that will lead him to her somewhere in Pennsylvania and to an explanation accounting for why she left him when he was young. After a fight with his father that reopens the same old wounds of self-hatred, not fitting in and misunderstanding, Paul runs away in search of this elusive woman. He ends up at the city’s fairground where he meets the flamboyant and greedy Mr. Silk (John Turturro), who extends him a proposition: in exchange for voluntarily serving himself up as the fair’s newest sideshow attraction ‘Dog Boy’, he will pay Paul enough to help him get to Pennsylvania. Paul is reluctant to agree, but does so, nevertheless.
Meanwhile, Paul’s father (Messina), worried and anxious over his son’s disappearance, calls for a detective to help bring him home. Paul’s movements are scattered, however, acting out of desperation for places to sleep safely and digging up things to eat. Paul may be an oddity himself, but that doesn’t stop him from crossing paths with others who operate on the edges of society, including Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore) and Rose (Eve Hewson), two unconventional souls who seek refuge from life’s tribulations at a local bar where unconventionality is given a spotlight. Paul starts to develop feelings for Aristiana and, when the latter’s mother finds the two of them spending time in the backyard together, they run away from her too.
The True Adventures of Wolfboy is the latest addition to the adolescent genre, and despite the weirdly endearing moments of happiness that are peppered through the hour and twenty-eight minute runtime, everything seems to be glossed over with an air of futility. The storyline itself is broken up into various ‘chapters’, which really does make the film seem like a journey one can not only read, but experience alongside Paul and his ragtag companions. The unfortunately common tropes of self-hatred and self-destruction are present, pressing down on the shoulders of each character we are introduced to, which certainly highlights the fact that our insecurities don’t just vanish as we grow older; we are simply able to manage them more, perhaps even tolerate them.
Krejcí’s flick is not especially riveting, which is disappointing, considering the message that resides at the core of the film. The script doesn’t give its talented cast enough to work with. The potential it has is never fully realised — and though it its portrayed as a coming of age drama, it is hard to tell whether it is one; Wolfboy feels as if it’s suspended in a state of limbo, fashioned to be too dejected at times for a developing audience whilst being too chaotic and choppy for the likes of a more mature one.
Shortcomings or not, Wolfboy tries to disrupt those clouds of self-consciousness that tend to define many a youthful year, of which, can never be a bad thing, and Krejcí’s effort is a decent one at the end of the day.
The True Adventures of Wolfboy is available on Digital in the US now
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95