If you are a passionate writer, there is always an underlying fear of losing your edge. “The Wolf Hour,” scratches beneath that surface to reveal every writer’s nightmare, i.e., solitude in some form. As we allow fear to take control, a slew of phobias infests our system. The brain sends signals and tricks us into believing that the safest place in the world is within four walls. Some people term this condition “psychosis.” But does it really exist?
Director and writer Alistair Banks Griffin masterfully puts Naomi Watts into a story about a struggling author who battles internal and external demons. When the world seems to be poisoned, there is a heatwave that she must battle, along with potentially dangerous elements outside of her apartment. Without any more delay, let us understand June Leigh’s (portrayed by Naomi Watts, also Executive Producer) struggle within the four walls and her fear of an overtly friendly buzzer on the intercom.
‘The Wolf Hour’ Plot Summary
The curious title immediately brings back the story of the boy named Wolf who cried. What is Wolf’s hour in this context, then? Director and writer A.B. Griffin puts you in a room with an agoraphobic (a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed) author, who has fixated herself within the four walls of her late grandmother’s apartment and might seem a teensy bit unhinged. We meet June Leigh, an acutely brilliant writer who dwells in a troubled and humid neighborhood in the South Bronx in New York City in 1977.
A heat wave takes over the South Bronx with rumors of a killer on the loose. The radio is her only connection with the outside world, along with the buzzer or intercom and the telephone. A buzzer goes off, and June believes she has a visitor. On pressing the buzzer to continue the conversation, she hears white noise. No one is on the other side. There is a genuine cause for a slowly creeping panic as the killer has shown that June fits his many victims’ profiles, and he had just killed someone in the same area. As things slowly unfold, the narrative opens up from a severely monotonous study of June to the characters that become known in the apartment. June does not only have the killer to worry about, but also money for rent and groceries to survive. All these elements culminate in making her confront a wolf hour.
We understand what June’s life is through the imagination of production designer Kaet McAnney’s idea of what a sweltering, humid and dry, scarcely lit room looks like with stacks of books all over the floor, completely neglected. The only source of light is the windows in the daytime, and the only source of air is a small electric fan. Running on almost no electricity, she invites her sister Margot into the apartment. Margot does as much as she can, seeing her sister in distress. Eventually, she is told off by her sibling, and June is left to fend for herself again. “The Wolf Hour” further explores the reason for June’s solitude and how she overcomes her fear.
Why Did June Lock Herself Within Four Walls?
June looks for some sort of mental comfort and tries to understand what brought her to this apartment. She finds an old video recording of her last book’s interview on a talk show. The host calmly talks about what the book was about and asks June to explain in her own words whether this book is an adaptation of her life with her father, a famous business tycoon, and philanthropist. She replies to make a point, but then is stunted for words once the host mentions that her father had a heart attack the previous night and passed away. For the first time, we get a glimpse of what made her terrified enough to keep herself locked in that apartment. With stoic confidence, she believed she would be harmless if she simply stayed within those four walls.
She finally makes a call to her publisher. The publisher tells her that the advance she is asking for cannot be given without at least one draft of the manuscript for the new book. While June assures her that’s exactly what she is working on, we think that this may be something June is looking forward to. An old flame reignited. June breaks the ice and pulls out an old typewriter, tucked away in the dark nook of a closet. She almost begins to type, but her fingers do not know what to say. Will she be able to finish the book?
Who Is Harassing June Through The Buzzer?
The buzzer goes off constantly, and it compels June to call 911 to report harassment. A beat cop, Blake, who isn’t in the sunniest of dispositions to be there, responds to June’s distress call. He begins to understand June’s situation, but finds June crazy with no reason to believe there is trouble. But besides that, the cop realizes this is his opportunity to find a companion who can satisfy him physically with a mutual understanding. June coils back in absolute disgust, eventually telling him off in distasteful language after his walkie-talkie goes off when he makes an uninvited approach towards her. June understands that there is nothing that can be done about the buzzer, and pushing further is futile.
“The Wolf Hour” then suggests that the buzzer is her neurological tick to reach out to the world and begin to have a normal life. We know this when the creepy cop mentions that he knew another victim who thought her “shit did not stink either.”
The story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” then helps translate the title accurately in this story to June’s constant seeking validation of her “condition,” not being self-inflicted but a reason to survive. This story even has a “wolf,” but Freddie becomes the Wolf in the Wolf hour unassuming of this image. Thereby, making June step out of her shell.
What Helped June To Finish Her Book?
June explores a dating service through an ad in the paper, and we meet a cowboy-like character who knows his role is to sway women. Once June shares her lustful moments with him, he connects with her on a deeper level, and she confesses her condition to him after he tells her of his fears. Her mind clears, and suddenly, she begins to type her story through the buzzer that is constantly going off. Words turn into sentences, sentences into pages. Pages that are being typed day and night.
Human connection and the release of endorphins in ecstasy are things that finally helped June see that her life may not be as bad as she thought. Connecting with her date made her see that while everyone has fears, the body is still controlled by the mind. Confronting one’s fear is the only way to get through it.
‘The Wolf Hour’ Ending Explained – Does June Finish Her Book?
After the first draft of her next book’s manuscript is ready, she puts it together. The delivery boy from the Mexican store that June regularly calls for groceries is Freddie. He visits again, and she tries to negotiate that the book is to be delivered to the publisher’s office immediately and that he must return with a cheque that they hand to him. Freddie agrees but does not return, thus thwarting June. June tries to understand where he could have gone and called the shop he delivers for, realizing that nobody was there. She has lost her manuscript. When a storm engulfs the South Bronx and crime breaks out on the street outside her apartment window, she is forced to leave the apartment after seeing someone like Freddie get beaten to the ground by a cop. She finally confronts this fear by going down the stairs, stepping onto the pavement, and walking towards “Freddie.” But it isn’t him.
“The Wolf Hour” ends with a new book by June Leigh named “Season in the Abyss.” June has cut her hair, is not untidy, but smartly dressed with a focused glance. The same talk show host asks her if this book is based on her self-inflicted isolation period. She smiles, and we now know that this was intentional.
“The Wolf Hour” brings to screen a writer’s nightmare while also making us trudge through a tremendous one-woman performance by Naomi Watts. Director/writer Alistair Banks Griffin takes us through an almost painful look at the character’s world that unfolds through many perceptions, but then, towards the end, we see that maybe the act was necessary to hide June’s truth.
The film breaks down a writer’s journey through the complexities of her mind, which may be self-inflicted, but is not without reason. Her fears about her life, which often take a physical form in the film, push her to make certain decisions that affect her well-being and eventually lead her to a certain type of self-flagellation. Through people coming in and out of the frame, we see our protagonist’s story stay firm on her ground, only slowly hinting at sanity rather than the opposite.
“The Wolf Hour” is a 2019 dramatic mystery thriller written and directed by Alistair Banks Griffin. It is currently streaming on Netflix.