Tag Archives: Paddy Considine

Sheep’s Clothing


by George Wolf

More metaphorical than Cuckoo’s Nest, more elusive than Girl, Interrupted, and with less satirical bite than The Lobster, Wolf brings a few other films to mind. But like many of her characters, writer/director Nathalie Biancheri is committed to her own different animal.

George MacKay is hypnotic as Jacob, a young man suffering from species dysphoria. He believes he is a wolf trapped in a human’s body, and when we first meet Jacob, his distraught parents are dropping him off for an extended stay at a treatment center promising a cure.

Once inside, Jacob meets others in similar circumstances: Parrot (Lola Petticrew), German Shepard (Fionn O’Shea), Duck (Senan Jennings), Horse (Elsa Fionuir) and Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp) – all patients under the domineering thumb of The Zookeeper (Paddy Considine).

Though enemies in the wild, Wolf and Wildcat become drawn to each other within the confines of the treatment center. She’s mysterious, with privileges the other patients don’t enjoy, which comes in mighty handy when Wolf starts resisting The Zookeeper’s increasingly harsh methods.

Biancheri’s metaphor for conversion therapy certainly isn’t hard to pick out, but on a wider scale, her film speaks not only to ignorance toward the LBGTQ+ community, but to a universal push for conformity across all lanes of society. To The Zookeeper, a happy and productive life comes only when you accept what is expected of you, and while Biancheri often juggles different tones within this theme, she is able to craft several moments of powerful humanity, including a structured lesson on laughing that will just about break your heart.

MacKay (1917, The True History of the Kelly Gang) is such a wonderful actor, and it’s no surprise that he’s able to uncover Jacob’s inner conflict with a touching, understated depth. But even beyond that, his command of the role’s animal physicality is powerful and striking.

As Wolf and Wildcat grow closer, MacKay and Depp (also impressive in a comparatively underwritten role) often seemed locked in to an acting school exercise on primal instincts that left the rest of the class in the dust.

There’s more than enough here – from the narrative core to the stellar ensemble to the clinical production design and beyond – for a compelling and thought provoking parable. But while Biancheri’s ambitions are bold and worthy, her second feature (after 2019’s Nocturnal) can’t quite settle on a species.

Such commitment to a unique identity is certainly thematically consistent, but a more streamlined focus may have made the finale feel less abrupt, and brought more clarity to Wolf‘s high concept vision.

Gifted & Talented

The Girl with All the Gifts

by Hope Madden

It is the top of the food chain that has the most reason to fear evolution.

Isn’t that the abiding tension in monster and superhero movie alike? The Girl with All the Gifts explores it thoughtfully and elegantly – for a zombie movie.

In 2010, director Colm McCarthy took an unusually restrained and intimate look at lycanthropy in his underseen Outcast – kind of a werewolf Romeo and Juliet among Irish travelers. This time he mines Mike Carey’s screen adaptation of his own novel with the same quietly insightful bent.

Melanie (startlingly strong newcomer Sennia Nanua) lives out her young life in a cell, then restrained head, hands and feet in a wheelchair as part of ongoing research conducted by Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close).

Let’s pause. When 6-time Oscar nominee and all around acting badass Glenn Close deems a zombie film worthy of her talent, we should all pay attention.

So, what’s the deal? A horde of “hungries,” each infected with a plant-based virus, has long since overrun the human population. Dr. Caldwell, her researchers and the military are holed up while trying to derive a cure from the next generation, like Melanie – the offspring of those infected during pregnancy.

It is an unsettling premise handled with restraint and realism, bolstered by uniformly admirable performances.

Melanie aside, the characters could be standard fare zombipocalypse cogs: gung ho military guys, driven researcher, tender-hearted woman here to remind us all of the civilization we’re fighting to save.

But expect something surprising and wonderful out of every actor involved – from Paddy Considine as the Sarge with something to learn to Gemma Arterton as Melanie’s beloved teacher to Close, steely and cagey in a underwritten role.

But much of the weight sits on Nanua’s narrow shoulders, and she owns this film. The role requires a level of emotional nimbleness, naiveté edged with survival instinct, and command. She has that and more.

McCarthy showcases his bounty of talent in a film that knows its roots but embraces the natural evolution of the genre. It’s not easy to make a zombie film that says something different.

Girl brims with ideas and nods to films of the past – in many ways, it is the natural extension of the ideas Romero first brought to the screen when he invented the genre in ’68. It definitely picks up where his Day of the Dead left off in ’85, working in nods to 28 Days Later as well as other seminal flicks in the genre.

But what Girl has to say is both surprising and inevitable.

And she says it really, really well.