Wolf and Dog (2022) Venice Film Festival 2022

September 5th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Claudia Varejo; Cast: Ana Cabral, Ruben Pimento, Christiana Branquinho; Portugal 2022, 111min.

This impressionistic first feature film from Portuguese director/co-writer Claudia Varejo,  (Amor Fati), is set on Sao Miguel, an island in the Azores. A straightforward gay awakening story, Varejo puts tempo, heart and soul into a spirited debut that is structurally flawed.

Ana Cabral gives a sparkling performance as Ana, the neglected middle child of a traditional family where her brothers Tejo and little Simao get all the attention. Ana is best friends with Luis (Pimento), who is openly gay and dresses provocatively often attracting negative attention on an island still ruled by the old-fashioned values of the older generation. The church and patriarchy is on its last legs, ready to be swept away by the young who, more often than not, leave the island as soon as they can.

One day the mother finds her son unconscious in a drug den and he admits to being part of a narcotics smuggling ring. But once Cristiana (Branquinho) arrives from Canada, this heavy mix of personal and cultural rebellion will boil over. Meanwhile Ana finds all the answers to her questions in when she falls for Cristiana – but what will she do when Luis and her lover depart the island for good at the end of the summer?

Varejo goes hell-for-leather in her pursuit of youth revolution. Sometimes simplistic in the dialogue (“Binarism is a prison’), overly sentimental in the love scenes between the young women on the beach – but always galloping forward at an insane tempo, Wolf and Dog storms through classrooms, churches, family homes and places of traditional male refuge. In the disco, a girl band hold sway while the old women pray their offspring will not be seduced by ‘Satan’.

DoP Rui Xavier does his best to support this all-out assault: his handheld camera tracking Ana in her pursuit of love and freedom. But the lingering lakeside scenes don’t come off so well. Overall, Wolf and Dog is well-acted and beautiful to look at but the relentless emotional explosions make for over-kill, particularly with a generous running time, giving the director too much space for self-indulgence. Varejo was obviously afraid to leave anything on the editing-room floor – but self-discipline would have helped here. AS


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