Werewolf Screen 13 articles

Werewolf

2016

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  • Palpable throughout Werewolf, the austere, marvelously focused debut feature from writer-director Ashley McKenzie, is a sense of existence as ordeal. . . . Throughout the film, McKenzie is exceptionally attentive to issues of sound design, impressing how the weight of day-to-day existence presses down on and persecutes her protagonists, both bundles of raw nerve endings.

  • McKenzie reworks a theme that, in the hands of other directors, would risk banality (though that’s true of many movies); above all, she reworks a form and a style that are easily trivialized, because they belong to the most trivially easy approach to realize: spare naturalism. Or: pictures of actors acting. . . . McKenzie’s extraordinary art, both in the construction of the drama and the composition of the images, is an art of the partial, the fragmentary, the symbolic.

  • Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf is one of the most accomplished and acclaimed Canadian debut features in recent memory. . . . A film of sparse details where small gestures and a limited set of elements take on power and significance, Werewolf is a humanistic and stylistic triumph.

  • A tone of stark austerity seems to have become the default mode of contemporary films about drug addiction (Josh and Bennie Safdie’s excellent 2015 film “Heaven Knows What” being a notable exception). This holds for “Werewolf,” a Canadian film written and directed by Ashley McKenzie. But the particulars of Ms. McKenzie’s approach, and the excellent work of her lead actors, bring new value to the mode.

  • Intimate yet aestheticized, Canadian director Ashley McKenzie’s debut feature Werewolf presents a tale of addiction and love through images that both limit our vision and force us to see things anew. Its story may be thin, its characters not particularly original, but McKenzie’s use of cinematic language is savvy and novel, finding complexity where others might find only emptiness.

  • If Werewolf were simply concerned with the corporeal suffering of drug addicts, it would be a bold yet nearly unbearable art-film stunt. McKenzie's aesthetic achieves a strange irony, however, as her abstractions serve to heighten our emotional connection to Blaise and his young girlfriend, Vanessa (Bhreagh MacNeil).

  • The film is perhaps most illuminating for its depiction of a seldom-seen side of Canadian life, and until Nessa pulls out a few bills of local currency midway through the film, one could easily believe that this is all taking place somewhere in the American Midwest. McKenzie deserves credit for revealing such a troubling facet of her homeland, and even if the shallow focus – both literal and figurative – of her movie can be frustrating at times, she bravely never turns away.

  • What in other hands might be a tired tale of co-dependent teen junkies is, in Werewolf, rendered sensitive and ultimately tragic through Nova Scotia-born director Ashley McKenzie’s discreet storytelling and austere, resonant imagery.

  • Quiet, fleeting moments, or scenes of incidental conflict, all take on a heightened, eerie quality in light of what's to come. But then - gradually, not all at once - McKenzie's film gracefully side-steps doom by switching tracks, that is, by transferring its attention and emphasis. It's a poignant feminist statement of, at once, the most obvious and the subtlest sort.

  • The most accomplished film in Future//Present, and it actively re-calibrates Telefilm’s stiff model. Employing an archetypal set up as a means to refute the simple-minded films it superficially resembles, Werewolf is a story of two Cape Breton ‘junkies’ on the methadone recovery program. The film seems to fit neatly alongside other American indies and festival darlings, but its guise is distinctly Canadian.

  • Tough to do anything novel with the junkies-in-love subgenre, and first-time director Ashley McKenzie never quite comes up with a compelling reason for the existence of this particular film, which covers exceedingly familiar ground. Her raw talent bleeds through the clichés, though, firmly marking her as Someone To Watch.

  • The narrative materials are generic, but the filmmaking is vivid and specific. Smart visual choices abound. . . . There’s a bare minimum of junkie poetry here: addiction is not a tragic state of grace but just one more self-destructive compulsion among many, while the finely gradated interactions between the protagonists and different representatives of various institutional establishments place empathy and ambivalence side by side, where they belong.

  • Although this somewhat humble, low-to-the-ground debut bears passing resemblance to other notable work -- Lodge Kerrigan's Clean, Shaven and Keane and the Dardenne brothers' The Child and Lorna's Silence in particular -- there's a cumulative impact of having seen something fresh and new, of having observed the opening salvo from a filmmaker who will go on become a significant creative force.

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