Nature Is A Construct Of Man: Wolf (2021) - Reviewed

Ever feel like you were meant to be something different than what you were?  Many people experience this to some extent, but one version of this sentiment that’s rarely talked about is species identity disorder.  Also commonly known as species dysphoria, people with this disorder believe that their body is that of the wrong species because it doesn’t reflect their inner identity.

In writer/director Nathalie Biancheri’s Wolf, we are given a glimpse of what life is like for people with this disorder.  Jacob (George MacKay) is convinced that he is a wolf and behaves accordingly, wandering through the wilderness on all fours, howling at the moon, and occasionally attacking people like a feral beast.  Naturally, his parents are concerned about his well-being, so they send him away to a clinic called True You, which is dedicated to helping people with species identity disorder.  Some of the treatments at this facility are unconventional thanks to “The Zookeeper” Dr. Mann (Paddy Considine), who believes “nature is a construct of man” and goes to sadistic extremes to help his patients realize that they are actually human.  While Jacob is in this facility, he befriends longtime patient Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp), and they develop a special bond together as they embrace each other’s animalistic identities.

Wolf is an exploratory film with an emphasis on performances.  George MacKay is mesmerizing in his portrayal of Jacob:  the physicality he brings to the character when he is in “wolf mode” is fascinating to watch, and the restraint he shows when he tries to act more human is palpable.  His eyes always have a deeper story to tell, and it makes all the difference.  In fact, all of the actors portraying patients at this clinic show unwavering commitment to the offbeat concept of this film.  They’re able to treat this disorder with respect while still being able to bring levity to their performances.  The line between comedy and drama is oftentimes thin here, but in order for the film to work, the story can’t be played for laughs, and it succeeds in this balancing act.  It teeters on absurdity, but has enough compassion for the characters in order for audiences to take the content seriously.


The way Wolf explores the concept of identity is compelling.  When we’re first introduced to the patients of this clinic, they’re presented like outsiders and ostensibly disturbed, much like the way those with this disorder are commonly perceived by the general public.  Throughout the film, however, we begin to learn compassion for them as their interpersonal relationships unfold.  Despite not aligning themselves with humans, they often show more humanity than the self-proclaimed humans do in this film.  Dr. Mann, on the other hand, quickly becomes the villain in this narrative:  he’s more concerned about his own ego than the mental health of his patients.  This shift from the doctor as a caretaker to an aggressor is reminiscent of cruel treatments like conversion therapy, which forcibly attempt to turn people into something that they’re not.  While the film lacks a complex plotline, it’s intriguing in its singularity and celebration of the self.


Wolf is a bold arthouse film that won’t resonate with everybody.  Some might see its premise as too outlandish to entertain, but for those who are able to see past the surface layers, it’s a one-of-a-kind, refreshing film that serves as a metaphor for anyone who’s felt like an outcast in their lives and been treated poorly because of it.  

-AK Riley