On its exotic surface, “Wildcat” may have all the trimmings of a standard wildlife conservation documentary, but hidden under ostentatious photographic camouflage, it is a compassionately driven, deeply empathetic human survival story that has as much to do with emotional trauma as it does emotional trauma. Physically.
Taken on the face of it, there’s no lack of Disney nature-style fascination in the touching bond between Keanu, a one-month-old orphaned ocelot kitten, and British Army veteran Harry Turner, who has 17 months to raise the baby cat. Teach him to fend for himself before releasing him back into the Peruvian Amazon.
But rehabilitation turned out to be a two-way street – seven years ago when he returned from a six-month mission trip in Afghanistan, Turner, who had as many tattoos as Keanu, was battling PTSD and severe recurrent depression.
After a suicide attempt, she decided to pack up and “go where no one knows my name”, but instead of getting lost permanently in the woods, she would find her purpose at Hoja Nueva (“New Leaf”), a dedicated nonprofit. to breed and re-wild rescues that may possibly have been snatched by the black market.
What has greatly contributed to Turner’s personal recovery is the calming presence of Samantha Zwicker, founder of University of Washington doctoral candidate Hoja Nueva, who, as the daughter of an abusive alcoholic father, knows very well how to survive Harry’s emotionally fragile flare-ups.
As presented by filmmakers Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost, this deep well of collective trauma is captured with the same impressive sensitivity as the nourishing encounters between Harry and Keanu, and again during Harry’s parents and younger brother’s first visit to the rainforest. after a long separation
No stranger to bouts of depression himself, Frost first stumbled upon Turner and Zwicker’s story after traveling to the Peruvian Amazon to document the elusive anaconda, but after 40 days of searching for the creature it came up empty.
Inspired by previous conservation-themed documentaries such as 2014’s “Virunga” set in eastern Congo, Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” and Brett Morgan’s “Jane”, the 2017 Jane Goodall profile, with Frost and Lesh, Turner, also boasts superb cinematography. also took over.
It’s all wrapped up in an immersive soundscape, accentuated by “Virunga” composer Patrick Jonsson’s gentle music that will pull back when the time comes as Keanu, who has learned to search for his own food while dodging a crippling bite. The Brazilian wandering spider finally attacks on its own.
While Veda pretty much guarantees that there won’t be any dry eyes in or out of the house (the movie airs on Amazon Prime Video a week after a limited theatrical release), it’s left human to make sure Keanu will come out alive and well, especially for a few months. later when he is briefly seen by a jungle camera.
While Turner’s final rehabilitation estimate may seem more ambiguous, “Wildcat” conveys the life-affirming message of coming of age in a poignant way, with no odious lines attached.
Vote: R for language
Operation time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Play: It begins December 21 in Laemmle Royal, Los Angeles; Culver Theatre, City of Culver; Available December 30 on Amazon Prime Video