Broken into arch chapter headings that are introduced with intricate, stylised illustrations like something out of a book of fairytales for Gen Z and millennial misfits, this fey, magical realism fable is an interesting mixture of winning charm, smug knowingness and vulnerability. The screenwriter (Olivia Dufault), one of the young co-stars (Sophie Giannamore from Transparent) and the character she plays are all transgender, and the film is at its best when it is working through issues around dysphoria through the lens of allegory.
That feeling of not being at ease in your own body is at the heart of this story about a 13-year-old named Paul (Jaeden Martell, heartbreakingly expressive even under a ton of prosthetics and fake hair) who has a condition that causes him to grow lustrous golden-red fur all over his body, including his face. Teased by peers at school, and already dealing with major abandonment issues after his mother ran off when he was little, he can’t even count on his well-meaning but clueless dad (Chris Messina) to do the right thing. One day Paul runs off to find his mother in that mythical land known as Pennsylvania. Along the way, he briefly becomes a freak show attraction at a carnival run by the menacing if mesmerising Mr Silk (John Turturro, going over the top, round the outside and up from underneath with an outrageously hammy performance); and then falls in love with a beautiful singer around his own age named Aristiana (Giannamore), whose dreary mother insists on calling her by her dead name “Kevin”.
First time director Martin Krejci draws lovely performances from his cast, and the whole thing looks dreamy and splendid thanks to Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography – but the last act could have done with some serious workshopping to smooth out the motivational kinks and deflationary resolution. Still, it might be the kind of film a kid wrestling with their identity will treasure forever, flaws and all.
• The Adventures of Wolfboy is released on 15 March on digital platforms.