The Wolf Hour has been described by other reviewers as a “slow burn.” For the record, that term makes me wish a could retract my head into my body like a turtle. I still went into this movie held high with optimism because it stars Naomi Watts (“Luce”, “Birdman”), it looks like a top quality production and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019.
All good things. I was also pleased when I realized the movie was almost entirely set in one location. I find when these contained, resourceful movies work, they are the best examples of strong storytelling.
The Wolf Hour centers around Naomi Watts as June Leigh, a prized novelist who went into hiding after the aftermath of her first book. I’ll just say, she is a character, with some heavy family baggage. June is an agoraphobic, she is deathly afraid of going outside of her apartment.
The writer/director, Alistair Banks Griffin did a great job of portraying this disorder and found an interesting way to turn agoraphobia on its head. June has an interesting reason for not wanting to go out among other people. This internal conflict and psychology was brilliantly performed by Naomi Watts. It is interesting to note that Naomi Watts is also an executive producer of The Wolf Hour. Strong acting all around by a cast of supporting characters, including June’s friend, of sorts, played by Jennifer Ehle (“Zero Dark Thirty”).
This was a period film as well. It is all set in the Bronx, during the violence and civil unrest of 1977. The crew did a great job recreating the grime and technical limitations of that place and time. The Wolf Hour was beautifully shot by cinematographer Khalid Mohtaseb. I wanted to like this movie, but the plotting was an issue. It was an issue I could not overlook.
Sadly, not much happens in this movie. It is a character Drama and delivered a few strong scenes in that regard. But overall there is not enough active situations or conflict to get me invested in this story. The narrative is filled out by a few supporting characters who visit her. June’s house guest, be they welcomed or the uninvited, scratch the surface of drama or conflict, but never break through.