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film review

Misha Defonseca in the documentary Misha and the Wolves.Courtesy of Hot Docs

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  • Misha and the Wolves
  • Directed by Sam Hobkinson
  • Classification PG; 90 minutes
  • Streaming on Netflix starting Aug. 11

Critic’s pick

For those looking for a midsummer jolt of real-life drama that doesn’t involve the Olympics or the word “variant,” here is director Sam Hobkinson’s jaw-dropping documentary Misha and the Wolves. It helps when your doc subject is blessed with a stranger-than-strange starting point: during the Second World War, the seven-year-old Misha Defonseca loses her parents to the Nazis, flees to the forest and is taken in by a pack of wild wolves, who apparently raise her as one of their own, Jungle Book style.

That’s one helluva hook, but Hobkinson is only getting started, unspooling a twist-a-minute story that manages to smooth out a jagged history that encompasses everything from Second World War resistance fighters, suburban American neighbourhood feuds, the queasier corners of the publishing industry and Oprah Winfrey. Throughout it all, Hobkinson never once lets Defonseca’s increasingly off-the-rails story escape his narrative control. Misha and the Wolves is as much a documentary as it is a wrestling match: filmmaker versus subject, truth versus fiction. Ultimately, the viewer comes out the winner.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.