Synopsis: Back from the war in Afghanistan, a young British soldier struggling with depression and PTSD finds a second chance in the Amazon rainforest when he meets an American scientist, and together they foster an orphaned baby ocelot.
Stars: Harry Turner, Samantha Zwicker
Director: Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost
Running Length: 105 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Far from simply joining an endless list of documentaries charting the long-term effects of PTSD and the ripples it sends through the lives of men and women in the military, Wildcat offers a fascinating way inside the story. It’s still a raw examination of trauma and how war can damage emotions irrevocably. Nevertheless, directors Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost don’t leave the possibility of hope to die on the battlefield.
Lesh and Frost juggle several relationships that are central to the plot. The first is between graduate student/preservationist Samathna Zwicker and discharged solider Harry Turner. They’ve both come to the Peruvian Amazon to make a difference and what starts for her as a noble effort to give animals impacted by rainforest deforestation and poaching a fighting chance ends with his attachment issues with an ocelot named Keanu they raised from infancy. Of course, it’s about far more than Harry’s ties to the cat; he’s channeled a lot of his anger about being helpless to the horrors of war in Afghanistan into Keanu’s recovery and release.
As Zwicker feels the pull to continue her studies away from the rainforest, it isolates her boyfriend again, further complicating the matter. This is when the soldier looking for answers, like the wildcat he’s tending to, needs socialization. The eventual downfall of the romance and project is documented with unbiased but unflinching honesty.
More intriguing than you may think and filled with real-life curveballs only a true story could lob without blinking an eye, Wildcat was expected to make the Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary but didn’t show up when that roster was announced. That’s unfortunate because, for all the standard documentaries about war and the internal wounds it leaves, this film clearly shows the toll in a tangible, relatable way.