Wildcat Movie Review: Speaking of animals’ healing abilities is more than just New Age nonsense. Scientists are cautiously starting to investigate the notion that dogs may detect some cancers, and they are currently training dogs to check the blood sugar levels of diabetic owners.
Even just listening to a cat purr while it lies on its owner can relieve tension and anxiety. In “Wildcat,” a recent documentary about a man in need of atonement and a cat in need of salvation, this idea is brought to its logical conclusion.
Wildcat Movie Review
Harry Turner, an Englishman in his early 20s who served in Afghanistan when he was 18 years old and returned home with burn marks on his arms and serious PTSD, is the man in question. Harry physically journeys to the other side of the planet in pursuit of calm because such extreme trauma deserves an extreme response.
That would be the Peruvian Amazon, where Harry accompanies Samatha Zwicker, an American Ph.D. student who is also struggling, to volunteer at Hoja Nueva, her animal research and rehabilitation facility. These so-called “fallen souls” seek solace in the jungle and one another there.
It isn’t made evident until halfway through the movie that Harry and Samatha are romantically involved. The movie never tells how they met. This was undoubtedly done to respect the patients’ boundaries; Samantha in particular, based on her capacity to express her feelings, has probably received some counseling. However, it does raise some concerns about the producers, Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh, who later on in the movie add some deceptive sequences with Harry and his family.
Additionally, “Wildcat” does little to develop the story of two white children in the Peruvian jungle who are attempting to defend the forest from, well, Peruvians. Samantha is once more the more aware one in this situation, but the movie makers are happy to ignore the context of Harry and Samantha’s location near the Las Piedras River.
The focus of “Wildcat” is instead on Harry’s strange and intensely emotional relationship with Keanu, a baby ocelot. The first 15 minutes or so focus on Harry’s relationship with another kitten named Khan, who (spoiler alert) passes away after being shot by poachers only weeks before he was meant to return to the wild.
Keanu is really the second baby ocelot Harry has raised. Harry is devastated by Khan’s passing to the extent that he considers suicide. But this is just the beginning. One begins to question whether perhaps this young man is basing too much of his mental stability on a cat.
Knowing that Harry is never truly alone in the jungle—even when Samantha is called back to the United States to complete her thesis—is consoling. Frost and Lesh were present at all times, which is significant because Harry experiences some particularly bleak times when he is “alone” with his wartime memories on the spartan platform building he calls home. Harry’s relationship with Keanu, whom Harry is hand-raising in the manner of a mother ocelot so that Keanu can reintegrate into the wild once he is old enough to survive on his own, is what keeps Harry going.
Harry does, in fact, behave like Keanu’s mother, teaching the young cat to hunt and crying when Keanu spends his first night alone in the wild. (They mature so quickly; in this instance, in just 18 months.) When the time comes to kick Keanu out of the proverbial nest, the tough love required opens a vein of anger inside of Harry that is terrifying to watch. It’s unclear whether the intense experience of mothering this animal and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it, is helping or hurting Harry.
The project’s thesis calls for Harry to change as a result of this experience, and the rising strings in the score let us know that it’s all been constructive. But after essentially using a stay at a wildlife rehabilitation facility as intensive PTSD therapy, he should be enrolled in some post-treatment support.
Keanu is part of Harry’s family. Everyone else in this movie is family, whether they were selected or born into the family. And it is an unpleasant fact that they find more interest in other people’s family albums than anyone else does. (For example, the scene where Harry’s parents arrive is stitched together to look like a vacation movie.) Of course, there are exceptions for infant ocelots, and the scenes in the movie where Keanu is simply romping around, pouncing, and unaware of his own strength provide spectators the dopamine rush they expect from a film like this.
But even if “Wildcat” explores Harry’s mental health struggles and goes beyond just being a feel-good nature film, these points provoke more queries than they offer answers. Keanu will be all right. One is concerned about his biological parent.
On December 30, the movie will be accessible on Prime Video.