Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Trevor Frost, Melissa Lesh
Screenwriter: Trevor Frost, Melissa Lesh
Cast: Harry Turner, Samantha Zwicker, Keanu, Khan
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/29/22
Opens: December 21, 2022 in theaters. December 30, 2022 streaming on Amazon
Whoever said that dogs grovel with gratitude toward their human companions wherever they go while cats, at least above the stage of kittens, are independent and more judgmental, has not seen Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh’s documentary “Wildcat.” The directors in their debut feature might want to look forward to first-picture awards, adept at capturing the behavior of Khan, an ocelot, who dies after being shot, and Keanu, likewise an ocelot pup, who will come of age during the picture’s 106 minutes of spectacular photography in Peru’s Amazon jungle. (Is it a coincidence that Amazon picked up the film for distribution?)
If the duo who trained the cats early on preparing to release them into the wild after eighteen months were ciphers, this would be no more than a Disney special, and a good one at that. But Harry Turner captures our attention as a British man who took a six-months’ tour of duty in Afghanistan, came back with PSTD, and makes no effort to hide his vulnerabilities. You would think that after seeing the horrors in that sad Middle Eastern nation, Harry would want to live nowhere but in big cities, but ironically, by his own admission, he finds solace deep in the Peruvian rain forest. He attaches himself to Melissa Lesh, an American doctoral candidate, who supports her long-term friend until even she is ready to give up on this fellow who simply cannot break away completely from psychological disorders.
The directors together with others film the action, human animals and four-legged felines, capturing the love that Harry pours into raising the young kitty, all of which is returned in force by ocelots Khan and Keanu. Unlike Disney specials that shy away from filming the violence of the jungle, “Wildcat” treats us to a survival battle between the cat and a pissed off caiman, angered about the claws it finds on its leathery back. Harry and his partner Samantha agree that their animal friends must learn to live in the jungle where every day can provide a fight for one’s life by enemies who are about as ethical in treating their future dinners as Putin in his relations to a neighboring country.
Though Harry has an adoring family—his parents and younger brother fly from the UK to Peru projecting nothing but sweetness and light—Samantha has been traumatized by her own dealing with her abusive dad. When witnesses report sightings of Keanu, mature and wild enough to survive its natural adversaries, we agree: job well done. Harry, however, may need lifetime treatment for his emotional trauma courtesy of the military. War is hell. We cannot help thinking that like Keanu and Khan, we human beings are living in a jungle.
This is the only movie in cinema history to be dedicated to the memory of an ocelot.
106 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+