Director Martin Krejcí and screenwriter Oliva Dufault collaborate for a heartfelt debut in The True Adventures of Wolfboy from Vertical Entertainment. Paul (Jaden Martell) lives an isolated life with his father, Denny (Chris Messina), in upstate New York. He finds making friends impossible due to a rare condition he has, known as congenital hypertrichosis. This affliction causes an abnormal amount of hair growth all over his face and body. After a severe bullying incident at a carnival on his 13th birthday, Paul receives a mysterious gift that compels him to run away and seek out the mother he has never known.
From the title of the film, one assumes that Paul will have a few obstacles in his journey to find his mother. These obstacles include a run-in with the greedy and diabolical Mr. Silk (John Turturro), who wants to feature Paul as “dog boy” in his carnival freak show. Paul also finds time to make friends with a “pirate” named Rose (Eve Hewson) and a mermaid named Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore). Will Paul find his place in the world and find closure with the women who abandoned him?
As someone who suffers from a mild birth defect myself that I passed onto my own son, I found a lot to identify with in The True Adventures of Wolfboy. One of the things that I want to commend screenwriter Oliva Dufault for is the handling of Paul’s condition. Instead of making Paul an alien or an actual monster, Dufault’s script showcases Paul’s situation as a birth defect. During the film’s opening scenes at the carnival where Paul experiences bullying and hazing from townies, we can see and feel all of Paul’s emotions. There’s also a scene after the bullying incident where Paul’s dad wants him to attend a school for kids with disabilities. In contrast though, Paul wants to stay in his current school, even if it means not having any friends.
Once Paul beings his journey and has his first encounter with Aristiana is where the film really picks up. Like the character that she’s portraying, actress Sophie Giannamore is transgender, which adds another layer to the performance. I had no idea that Sophie Giannamore was transgender as she pulls off the performance so convincingly. Giannamore’s monologue about dealing with a mother who refuses to accept her the way she wants to be is very true to life. I can’t help but wonder if it’s based on the actress’s own life experiences. I also found much to enjoy in the character of “pirate” Rose. She lives in a van that serves as a pirate ship and she helps awaken Paul’s inner confidence through their adventure together.
Jaden Martell is six years into his acting career and continues to impress me with his role choices. Martell quickly taps into the teen angst that differs from his work in 2019’s horror smash It. The chemistry he has with both Sophie Giannamore and Eve Hewson is admirable, and I genuinely believed in their friendship. I also want to mention the relationship between Chris Messina and Jaden Martell as father and son which I was able to relate with.
Naturally, Paul does eventually find his mother, Jen (Chloë Sevigny). The twist involving her connection to a mysterious character named Nicholas (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is handled with a gentle delicacy. Given the film’s short running time at only under ninety minutes, I really wanted to see more of those two.
Thankfully the studio isn’t billing The True Adventures of Wolfboy as a family film, given the film’s dark tone. While there isn’t any nudity or gratuitous violence, younger viewers may get bored with the film. Nevertheless, I do recommend the movie for older teens and adult viewers.
Final Grade B
The True Adventures of Wolfboy is available On Demand today, October 30, 2020.