It’s a sign of how high the average standard of Malayalam cinema is these days that it’s no longer easy to get noticed with just an interesting premise. If the execution as a whole falters somewhere, there is a probability the film will pass unnoticed. Wolf is not a bad movie per se, but an intriguing first half is slightly let down towards the end with a bit of a cop-out of an ending.
Sanjay (Arjun Asokan) makes an unexpected trip to visit his fiancé on her birthday night. It’s late by the time he reaches and Asha (Samyuktha Menon) doesn’t seem particularly pleased to have him show up at her doorstep. Considering her family is not around, it is the first sign that all is not well in their world that they can’t even make use of the opportunity for a clandestine tryst. Arjun decides to leave, but the sudden declaration of the first nationwide lockdown, owing to the COVID-19 situation, by the Prime Minister and the presence of cops just outside the gate means that he is stuck. Asha gets increasingly perturbed, much to Sanjay’s displeasure. After all, they are supposed to be married in a few weeks, so such antagonism is a problem. Slowly, though, facets of Sanjay’s personality comes out which apparently Asha has deep umbrage to, including his manner of speech when angry and the way he treats his close friend, a girl. There is, for sure, a casual misogyny about certain aspects of Sanjay’s behavior, but he is presented as someone who does care for her. They manage to spend the night under the same roof eventually, though of course in different rooms. But the next day, there are some shocking surprises in store for Sanjay. And through a mentally tortuous process of discovery, for Asha too. Will their impending betrothal even survive the lockdown, let alone the time to the wedding date?
While I wouldn’t want to give out spoilers, I was pleasantly surprised at the gravitas of Irshad’s screen presence in the film. For long an oft-ignored supporting character, here he does get a chance to shine on screen and is probably the best performance of the lot. Shows how different an actor’s trajectory could have been with the right kind of role and script. The story revolves mostly within the house and the two cops posted outside (Shine Tom Chacko and Jaffer Idukki). As befits a story which has the lockdown as a major plot pivot, the sense of claustrophobic hopelessness of being stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time hits home. As does the sense of never really knowing a person. None of the three main characters are blameless in the way they treat the others, but the cloying sense of tension as Sanjay realizes his planned life slipping away from him as well as Asha’s sudden realization of her circumstance is impressively portrayed.
The movie perhaps lost its way a bit towards the end. Asha, despite being particular about exposing the inherent patriarchal attitude of Sanjay, still ends up having to be drawn out of a hole by one of the men. Sanjay’s casual misogyny includes him suggesting that he cannot marry a woman who wears shorts, but he does get to redeem himself a bit. To say anymore would be a big spoiler, but suffice to say the film does a good enough job of gripping its audience in limited settings for long enough for this one to be worth a watch.