The Adventures of Wolfboy is available on all major streaming platforms from March 15th
In a world obsessed with the next Marvel movie and who wears the bat suit on film, you could be forgiven for thinking that heroes only exist in the pages of a comic book. However, heroes come in all shapes and sizes and walk among us daily. But these everyday heroes don’t have special powers, emblems or a secret identity. No, their superpower is their courage, conviction, and belief in a better world. These heroes fight to overcome barriers that our society places in front of them daily. But who are these heroes, I hear you ask? Well, they are all those children and adults who defy bullying, celebrate their difference or disability and shout “this is me” from the highest rooftop.
These fantastic people surround us as we go about our daily lives, and sometimes if we are lucky, we meet them through family, friendships or a brief encounter. They shine with the power of individuality and never allow others to bring them crashing down. Sometimes, a movie comes along that places these people centre stage. The Adventures of Wolfboy is one of those rare and beautiful gems as it takes inspiration from Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and Collodi’s Pinocchio. However, the fantasy at the heart of The Adventures of Wolfboy is dovetailed with reality in a unique and engaging modern fairytale.
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Thirteen-year-old Paul (Jaeden Martell) lives a reclusive life with his single dad (Chris Messina) in their small house that sits in the shadow of a large freeway. Here Paul’s room is his sanctuary from the bullies surrounding him, his only comfort, a knitted balaclava that hides his condition from the world outside his window. For, Paul is no ordinary teenage boy; he is unique and beautiful, but also covered in thick hair; his condition, Hypertrichosis, otherwise known as Werewolf Syndrome.
Paul’s mum disappeared just after his birth, and for Paul, her whereabouts remain unclear. Here his imagination works overtime as he creates scenarios of where she might be; for example, a large gothic house deep in the country where she waits for him to return. Meanwhile, Paul’s dad is struggling to help his son overcome the social anxiety and bullying he faces daily: his solution, a boarding school for different kids.
However, as Paul reluctantly tries on his new school uniform, his lack of enthusiasm on show, a mysterious birthday gift sits on his bedside table. The wrapped box contains a brief note and map from his long lost mum, pointing to a location in Pennsylvania and beckoning him to find her. Fearing the school his dad wants him to attend, Paul runs into the night. And so begins Paul’s quest to find his mum and finally gain the answers he has long wished to hear.
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However, Paul soon learns that life on the road is far more difficult than he imagined as he falls under the guidance of the dangerous circus owner Mr Silk (John Turturro). But as he runs from Silk’s slippery hands, he meets Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore), a trans girl fighting her own battle for acceptance. Here Paul finally finds security and a whole host of new friends, who, just like him, fight for acceptance, equality and understanding. But danger is never far behind, as Paul is about to discover.
Collodi’s Pinocchio sits at the heart of The Adventures of Wolfboy with a narrative arc built around Paul’s trials, tribulations and journey to be free. Here even Paul’s opening lines reflect Collodi’s work as he states, “I’m normal, I’m a regular kid; I’m just like everyone else”. However, Olivia Dufault’s modern fairytale also diverges from Collodi’s classic as she explores the reality of 21st-century life in discussing themes of social isolation and identity. Here The Adventures of Wolfboy has more in common with Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder as it discusses social anxiety, difference, transformation and discrimination.
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Paul’s guardian angel, first love, and support is Aristiana, a trans kid fighting for acceptance and love. While at the same time, the older Rose hides her insecurity and pain through rebellious defiance and strength. This creates a multi-layered conversation on diversity, social oppression and inclusion. The film’s final messages held in the importance of self-discovery and strength as you find your own tribe. Here much of the film’s success lies within the casting choices and performances of Martell, Giannamore and Hewson.
However, The Adventures of Wolfboy truly shines in its willingness to discuss and reflect the intersectionality between a range of equality characteristics, including the nature of the discrimination faced by those who look different or wish to be themselves in a society of fixed and damaging norms. Here the message is clear; whether our differences lay in colour, gender, sexuality, appearance, or ability, we are stronger when we fight for equality together than we are when we fight apart.