‘Wildcat’ assessment: A deeply shifting survival story

On its unique floor, “Wildcat” would possibly maintain all the trimmings of a typical wildlife conservation documentary, however lurking beneath the lushly photographed camouflage is a tenderly shifting, deeply empathetic human survival story that has as a lot to do with emotional trauma because it does with the bodily.

Taken at that face worth, there’s no scarcity of Disneynature-style captivation to be discovered within the touching bond between Keanu, a month-old orphaned ocelot kitten, and Harry Turner, a British Military vet who has 17 months to boost the newborn cat and educate it the best way to fend for itself earlier than releasing it again into the Peruvian Amazon.

However the rehabilitation seems to be very a lot a two-way road — upon getting back from a six-month tour of responsibility in Afghanistan seven years earlier, Turner, who has about as many tattoos as Keanu does spots, was battling PTSD and extreme recurrent melancholy.

Following a suicide try, he determined to pack up his issues and “go where no one knows my name,” however as an alternative of completely disappearing into the jungle, he’d discover function at Hoja Nueva (“New Leaf”) a nonprofit group devoted to elevating and rewilding rescues that might have doubtless been snatched up by the black market.

Additionally tremendously contributing to Turner’s private therapeutic is the calming presence of Hoja Nueva founder Samantha Zwicker, a College of Washington doctoral candidate who, because the daughter of an abusive alcoholic father, is aware of too nicely the best way to navigate round Harry’s emotionally fragile flare-ups.

Harry Turner and Keanu within the documentary “Wildcat.”

(Trevor Beck Frost/Prime Video)

As offered by filmmakers Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost, that deep nicely of collective trauma is captured with the identical affecting sensitivity as these nurturing encounters between Harry and Keanu, and once more throughout a first-time go to to the rainforest by Harry’s dad and mom and youthful brother after an prolonged time aside.

Frost, himself no stranger to bouts of melancholy, had stumbled upon Turner and Zwicker’s story after initially touring to the Peruvian Amazon to doc the elusive anaconda, however, after a 40-day seek for the creature, had come up empty.

Drawing upon such earlier conservation-themed documentaries as 2014’s “Virunga,” set in jap Congo, Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” and Brett Morgan’s “Jane,” the 2017 Jane Goodall profile, for inspiration, Frost and Lesh, who, together with Turner, additionally dealt with the attractive cinematography.

It’s all wrapped up in an immersive soundscape accentuated by a mild rating by “Virunga” composer Patrick Jonsson that has the restraint to drag again when the time lastly comes for Keanu, having been taught the best way to hunt for his personal meals whereas dodging the paralyzing chunk of the Brazilian wandering spider, to lastly strike out on his personal.

Whereas the farewell just about ensures there gained’t be a dry eye in the home or house (the movie streams on Amazon Prime Video one week after a restricted theatrical run), one is left feeling assured that Keanu will make it out alive and nicely, particularly when he’s briefly noticed by a jungle digicam some months later.

Though Turner’s final rehab prognosis would look like extra tenuous, “Wildcat” poignantly delivers its life-affirming, coming-of-age message with no cloying strings hooked up.


Rated: R, for language

Operating Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Taking part in: Begins Dec. 21, Laemmle Royal, Los Angeles; The Culver Theatre, Culver Metropolis; accessible Dec. 30 on Amazon Prime Video