Don’t let the title fool you. There are no wolves in The True Adventures of Wolfboy. There are adventures, though — lots of them, as a young man with a unique affliction finds out that the world may be terrible, but good people can make it OK.
Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry) stars as Paul. He has hypertrichosis, which means he has hair growing all over his body. Hence, “wolfboy.” As a 13-year-old boy, having hair everywhere, including all over your face, is not exactly the easiest thing in the world. Paul is bullied, made fun of and so shy and self-conscious about it that whenever he faces any discomfort, he simply runs away. Even the ski mask he wears when he’s outside doesn’t usually help.
Paul’s father Denny, played by the always excellent Chris Messina, is a single dad and does the best he can. They have a strained relationship, though, so when a mysterious box arrives and promises Paul answers, he does what he does best. He runs and a journey of true discovery begins.
Along the way Paul meets Mr. Silk, a devious circus ringleader played by John Turturro, as well as a young woman named Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore), who joins him on his adventure. Every person Paul meets teaches him something about the world and himself and adds another chapter to his adventure. Each chapter is even marked with a title card and beautiful illustration, giving the film a storybook, fairy-tale feeling.
While the film may feel like that, though, The True Adventures of Wolfboy is not a fairy tale. It’s a film about real life and the good and evil in the world. Paul encounters lots of hate, but as he meets new people and tries new things, the good in people and the world shines through. He starts to see that despite looking different, he’s really not that different at all. Like he says to himself time and time again, he’s just a regular boy. He just needed to break out of his shell a bit.
The first two acts of The True Adventures of Wolfboy unfold like a teenage road movie, with Paul and Aristiana getting into all kinds of trouble. However, for the most part, it all feels rather familiar. It’s in the third act, though, where things really come together.
The truth of Paul’s quest is revealed and a few twists truly tug at the heartstrings. And while the direction by Martin Krejcí keeps the movie alive and bright, it’s the story structure and characters written by Olivia Dufault that elevate the material beyond the familiar. Each character is so unique and wonderful that all we want to do is learn more about them. So even if the film ultimately gives a rather direct, simple message about the importance of inclusion and acceptance, the whole package around it makes it that much more delightful.
Featuring supporting performances by Chloë Sevigny and a few other surprise stars, The True Adventures of Wolfboy feels so much bigger than a mere festival movie. In fact, its screening at Fantastic Fest 2019 was its North American premiere, which is crazy. It feels like a movie that should be released by Annapurna, A24, or some other company that loves a good indie movie with a bunch of stars and an interesting hook. Fingers crossed that happens for it soon because it truly is a lovely little movie.
The True Adventures of Wolfboy does not yet have a release date.