Posts Tagged ‘ocelot’

Harry Turner and Keanu

“WILDCAT” My rating: B+ (Prime Video)

106 minutes | MPAA: R

Folks who fell for the cephalopod/human love story of the Oscar-winning “My Octopus Teacher” can enjoy a second helping with “Wildcat,” a heart-tugging doc about a damaged young man and a wild ocelot.

Harry Turner is a tattooed Brit who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan with a crippling case of PTSD and memories of seeing children gunned down. Feeling utterly out of place in his native England, he gravitated to an isolated job in the Peruvian jungle where young American scientist Samantha Zwicker has created a project to deal with animals orphaned by hunting, poaching and deforestation.

Harry is given a young ocelot named Khan to supervise. The idea is to keep Khan alive long enough that he can learn to survive on his own, at which point he’ll be returned to the wild. To minimize the cat’s familiarity with humans (in a natural state he should fear them), only Harry (and on occasional visits, Samantha) will interact with the animal in their preserve on the edge of civilization.

For a kid who finds it nearly impossible to deal with his own species, this gig gives Harry something to pour his love into. Which makes it all the more traumatic when something awful happens.

Harry is bereft — we’re talking suicidally bereft — and is only pulled out of his funk when another infant ocelot is recovered. Harry names him Keanu, and “Wildcat” will observe feline pupil and human teacher for more than a year.

“Wildcat’s” directors of record are Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh, but the lion’s share of the footage was shot by Harry and Samantha. It is intimate, visually stunning and emotionally overwhelming.

Samantha Zwicker

For every upbeat moment — Keanu roughhousing with his human companion, Harry showing the ocelot what animals he should feed on and which ones to avoid (hint: alligators should not be messed with) — there is one of soul-scorching anguish as Harry melts down in a series of tearful collapses.

Samatha is good at comforting him (the film suggests without overtly saying so that the two young people are lovers), but even she finds it difficult to deal with Harry’s depression.

Throughout the film we’re faced with the uncomfortable truth that even as Harry and Keanu bond, the ultimate goal is for them to go their separate ways. This isn’t a therapy animal, after all.

In the end “Wildcat” isn’t just a wildlife documentary; it’s a study of the human condition and of a young soul pushed to the very edge. There’s great pleasure here, and great pain.

| Robert W. Butler

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