Wolves are my favorite animals, so I would have loved this movie even if it were terrible. Which it wasn’t; though, it also wasn’t fantastic either. It did win several awards at film festivals all across the nation when it came out last year, and it is a beautiful film depicting the plight of Yellowstone’s wolves. I just could have done with a lot less angsty teens and a lot more wolf interaction.
The story follows small-town thug Owen (Spencer Treat Clark) who gets sent out west to live with his father after his mother’s finally had enough of his bad behavior. Nothing cliché about that. Clark does do an amazing job portraying the wayward teen, especially at the boy’s lowest moment. His immediate interest in the wolves his father studies may seem unbelievable after watching him threaten to kill a fellow student, but for anyone who’s looked into a wolf’s eyes before, the dramatic change in Owen’s personality doesn’t seem so strange.
Environmentally speaking—and putting my love of wolves to the side as much as possible—this movie is pretty accurate.
- True: There really is something motivating after you see a wolf. Ask any of the 18,000 people who visited Yellowstone National Park in 2013 and received assistance from the staff in spotting one of these elusive animals. Also, ask any rancher who spots a wolf wandering around the perimeter of his fields. The sight of a wolf always gets the blood pumping.
- True: Owen is incredibly lucky to have gotten so close to a wolf, but as their numbers have been increasing, more and more park visitors are running into them. The movie does show the true shy nature of wolves by going long stretches without Owen spotting any of his furry friends.
- True: The scientists and park rangers out in Yellowstone are doing tons of research. The Yellowstone Wolf Project has produced a yearly report ever since wolves were first reintroduced into the area in 1995. Owen’s father Everette (Andrew Wilson) really shows just how important this data is when he cuts off his son’s enthusiastic retelling of his latest run-in with wolves to figure out the exact numbers. When Owen gets frustrated because he doesn’t exactly remember how many wolves were there or what colors each of them were, viewers can see that Everette’s frustration in the unknown is even more powerful than his sons.
- True: Wolves have killed local farmers’ livestock. Between 1987 and 2004 there have been 429 cattle deaths and 1,074 sheep deaths confirmed as wolf kills. Ranchers also worry that wolf predation has led to weight loss in their animals. This really puts ranchers and ecologists at odds since the ecologists want to preserve the wolves while farmers want to preserve their livelihoods.
- True: Wolves in Montana and Idaho were removed from the Endangered Species list in 2008 by Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS). Twelve conservation groups filed suit against the action, momentarily replacing wolves back on the list. In March 2009, though, the delisting was affirmed and wolves were once again removed. September 2009 saw the first fair chase wolf hunt in Montana. 74 wolves were killed. Then in 2010, wolves were re-listed by Federal District Judge Donald Molloy when he found the decision by FWS to be “a political solution that does not comply with [the Endangered Species Act].” After a year of protection, Congress removed Montana and Idaho wolves from the endangered species list, making them the first animals ever to be removed by politicians and not scientists. In 2012, Wyoming followed suite and had their wolves delisted as well; though, this only lasted until 2014. Presently, the FWS is working on delisting wolves in all of the lower 48 states.
- False: Owen could not have run next to those wolves without them either scattering into the forest or thinking he was a snack.
Druid Peak is a great movie for wolf enthusiasts and even those who are on the fence in the great wolf debate, but be warned: there are no big Hollywood effects, some of the scenes tend to drag, and the story’s not exactly unique. But the scenes are so beautiful, the acting so true, and the story’s not one hundred percent propaganda, so I’d definitely say give this movie a shot if you’ve got Amazon Prime.
8/10 for wolf lovers
4/10 for Little Red Ridding Hood and The Three Little Pigs
Featured photo courtesy of Wine Country Film Festival.