The Reel Review


A conservationist and a British war veteran with PTSD from his time in Afghanistan work together in the rainforests of the Peruvian Amazon to rehabilitate ocelots in this deeply intimate documentary about the healing power of caring about other living creatures, be they people or animals, to help overcome past trauma.

Harry Turner and Keanu in Wildcat

As documentaries go, Wildcat is pretty unstructured – it is more of a stream of conscious travelogue and animal rescue film loaded with a ton of heartfelt moments, with a major focus on its human caregivers. Scientist Samantha Zwicker is the brains of her jungle operation with Harry Turner its very emotional heart. The documentary features a full range of emotions – joy, love, fear, anger, and sorrow. A beautiful melodic score of stringed instruments is our cue for when the emotions – and lots of tears – are about to flow.

Khan the ocelot in Wildcat

The film is oftentimes messy and at times a bit emotionally manipulative, with Turner’s unsettling, emotional breakdown in the third act raising questions as to whether it was a good idea for him to be out there in his fragile condition. Even so, you will find yourself overcome with emotion quite often – not just over the plight of these cute kittens imperiled by local hunting and logging, but over the pure and raw love their caregivers have for them, the difficult challenges they’ve faced in their own lives, and the heart-wrenching sadness associated with pushing a loved one – be it an ocelot or the human volunteer – out into the world to become independent. Have tissues handy.


• The National Board of Review (NBR) named Wildcat one of the top five documentaries of 2022.

Wildcat filmmakers Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost

• Filmmakers Trevor Beck Frost and Melissa Lesh consulted with mental health professionals prior to and during their six months living in the jungle with Zwicker and Turner. The filmmakers split the $20 million for selling the documentary to Amazon Studios equally with Zwicker and Turner, enabling each to be set for life and continue their respective conservation efforts without financial worry.

• If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, in the U.S. call or text 988 to the National Suicide Hotline to speak with a mental health professional.

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