‘Wildcat’ documents a veteran’s journey of healing. He travels to the Peruvian Amazon and works to reintroduce a rescue ocelot. The documentary is now streaming on Prime Video.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Harry Turner was just eighteen when he joined the army. He was one of the youngest among the soldiers posted in Afghanistan. Soon, he was medically discharged due to recurrent depression and PTSD.
There was a time when Harry felt as if life was not worth living. He wanted to disappear and go to a place where no one would be able to reach out to him. He met Samantha then, and his life changed.
Samantha had come to Peru as a student for wildlife research but ended up starting Hoja Nueva, a Peruvian NGO that shelters rescued animals. She initially wanted to get a Ph.D. in Wolf Ecology and save the wolves in the US.
However, she realized with time that she could not do much to save the animals because of several external factors. She wanted to make a difference as an individual, so she chose to start an NGO and rescue animals from hunters, loggers, and traffickers.
Khan is an ocelot that is rescued by Samantha and Harry. Their aim is to reintroduce him into the wild eventually.
The reintroduction project is to be executed by Harry; he has to spend time with and train Khan for a year and a half and then reintroduce him. Harry feels that they are saving each other.
However, a nine-month-old Khan gets shot by a gun that hunters had set in the forest. At the time of the accident, Khan is with Harry. Unfortunately, Khan does not survive.
Khan’s death severely affects Harry; he changes as a person and loses his happiness once again. Samantha sees the dark side of Harry’s personality for the first time.
Then Keanu comes into their lives. Like Khan, Keanu is a rescue ocelot kitten. To prevent a recurrence of what happened with Khan, they move to a larger, safer, and more remote area.
Harry begins taking care of the ocelot and starts teaching him. He walks with him for seven hours every day and night. Keanu is so comfortable with him that he never attempts to run away.
When Keanu turns six months old, Harry’s journey starts getting difficult. He gives Keanu food, but instead of eating it, he plays with it. Harry has to be patient with him.
Additionally, Samantha is in Seattle for her Ph.D. Harry, who is constantly sick and lonely, cannot even reach out to her as he is deep in the forest. He struggles to be happy.
Harry remembers his life as a soldier. He once stopped a man who was going to bury his child. Harry lifted the blanket covering the child. He then saw himself with all kinds of equipment and the child covered in blood.
The stark difference between the child and himself affected him. It was a life-altering moment for Harry. He realized he had no right to be there.
At the age of seven months, Keanu needs to learn to trust just one human being, Harry; he needs to be on his guard when he comes across other humans. He successfully hunts his first rodent the way Harry taught him.
A month later, Keanu gets bitten by a Brazilian wandering spider, which causes partial paralysis among other symptoms. Harry and Samantha nurse him to health.
However, they face another problem. They hear gunshots in their vicinity which scares them, considering what happened to Khan. They find a group of men cutting trees and ask them to leave their land.
Samantha discusses the untameable problem of illegal hunting and deforestation that conservationists have to face constantly.
The incident affects Harry to the point where he starts self-harming. He shares that he wanted to kill himself after Afghanistan, but the thought of his younger brother stopped him.
Harry’s family visits him and experiences the kind of life that he leads in the forest, far away from civilization.
Wildcat ending explained in detail:
What are the hurdles in the project?
As the time of separation approaches, Harry prepares Keanu to learn to hunt on his own. At the age of 14 months, Keanu spends his first night alone outside his enclosure.
He needs to learn to be on his own and independent. However, even a month later, Keanu keeps coming back to Samantha and Harry’s platform. He returns to let Harry know that he is hungry instead of hunting on his own.
He starts eating plastic that he finds and destroying things that Samantha and Harry use. Harry cannot get him to live on his own in the wild.
What happens to Harry?
When it is time to let Keanu go, Harry battles the anxiety that comes with knowing that soon they will be separated and Keanu would not need him anymore.
Apart from that, Harry has to get Keanu to leave the platform every time he shows up. He is constantly alert, not knowing when Keanu would sneak in again.
Harry has to resort to violent screaming to get Keanu to leave him. This takes a toll on his mental health. He starts having suicidal thoughts again and his self-harming tendencies get worse.
His relationship with Samantha suffers as well. Harry is constantly thinking about Keanu and worrying about him. That is when he decides to go back to England.
He bids Keanu a tearful goodbye and goes to his family. He tries to recover at home by spending time with his family. After eight months at home, he decides to travel to Ecuador to volunteer with a conservation program.
Where does Samantha go?
To help Harry overcome suicidal thoughts, she calls a suicide hotline. As the in charge of the project, she asks Harry to leave, as he is not stable.
Harry refuses, and Samantha feels like they do not understand each other anymore.
She grew up with a father who was an alcoholic. He would be physically and verbally abusive one day and would try to apologize the next day.
She realizes that in her relationship with Harry, she was constantly trying to save him or the relationship. She does not want to go through the same thing that she had suffered as a child.
She goes home for a while and returns when Harry has already left. After their breakup, she abandons the old facility and builds a new one. She expands her team with scientists and veterinarians.
Her team has now rescued over 120 animals while protecting 7,000 acres of forest. Hoja Nueva is the first and only rescue center in Peru to specialize in carnivores.
In the end, she is seen with a rescued wildcat. She names her Kleo.
Does Keanu learn to survive on his own?
After being released at the age of 17 months, Keanu keeps coming back to look for Harry, who has to scare him to get him to leave.
For the first time, Keanu manages to stay away for five days and live on his own. When he returns, Harry decides to leave since Keanu has learned to survive in the wild.
Samantha leaves cameras around the old facility to monitor Keanu’s return. He was caught on one of the cameras six months after his release. He looked healthy, which meant the project was a success and Keanu had been properly reintroduced into the wild.