SXSW 2014 Review: A WOLF AT THE DOOR Huffs, Puffs, and Blows Sweet Love Goodbye
In the fairytale classic the Three Little Pigs, -- you guessed it -- three little pigs set out in the world to find their fortune. Things come to an abrupt halt, however, when an asshole big bad wolf comes into the picture to destroy everything they've literally built for their lives. This is also the setting for A Wolf At The Door, an intense drama about haste decisions and the inevitable consequences that follow.
Set in Rio de Janeiro, Wolf opens with a mother walking into her daughter's daycare to pick her up. Only problem is the daughter left with someone else without her consent. The cops are called and the daycare owner, mother, Bernando the father (Milhem Cortaz), and suspect / Bernando's mistress Rosa (Leandra Leal) are all brought to police headquarters and put in different rooms to talk about the abduction and where they were when it happened. Wolf first starts out as a whodunit and quickly shifts to we-know-who-done-it but WHY? and, more importantly, WHERE IS THE GIRL? Just when the storm seems to settle, Wolf flips with a thunderbolt of surprises to a devastating finale.
Our two leads have a lot of bite to them. Milhem Cortaz as the husband, father, and adulteress gives a strong performance, but the real big, bad feat comes from Leandra Leal -- she's a tour-de-force of emotions when pushed enough. At first, her Rosa starts off as an innocent and sweet girl, but once she's sniffed out by Cortaz's Bernando and their torrid love affair begins, her innocence begins to tumble down the rabbit hole.
First time feature director Fernando Coimbra wants the tension to ride high, and he does that by making scenes with heavy dialogue very long, and with no cuts -- you can feel the angst and exhaustion in the actors. The camera doesn't move, either, and this works to the film's advantage because it makes the audience feel like they're in the scene while the madness unfolds.
In Wolf at the Door, the unfriendly foe isn't an animal or a person -- it's a situation (infidelity), and the three little pigs are the mother, the father, and the secret lover - all out to seek self-gratification. And tension rides high all the way to the bitter end. This punch to the gut paints a haunting portrait of bad decisions and they're often (in the movies, anyway) deadly consequences.