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James Hickey, CEO of the Irish Film Board [IFB], said of this production: "The IFB, alongside Screen Australia, is delighted to support [director] Sophie Hyde's 'Animals', which is set in and will film in Ireland. Led by unique and distinctive female creative filmmaking talent, we are also proud to help bring this complex and nuanced portrait of contemporary womanhood to screens around the world". See more »
This was another Cineworld Unlimited preview showing, so this film isn't released in the UK until early August (2019).
Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) are two late twenty-somethings partying their way to an early death through drink, drugs and lack of sleep in Dublin. They are co-habiting best friends, with Laura a hugely unsuccessful part-time novelist and Tyler a barista. But these "professions" are just to fill the day and provide cash (SURELY not enough!?) to fuel their nights.
They are swimming against the current of convention, but when Laura falls for concert pianist Jim (Fra Fee), and 'settling down' starts to look like an option, then this begins to put a terrible strain on their friendship.
I have to admit that I really didn't enjoy this film. I'm sure it's technically very strong - with great cinematography and (at times) thoughtful script. But I had absolutely no empathy with any of the characters involved. They were driftless individuals leading vacuous hedonistic lives. I just wanted to shake them by the shoulders and shout in their faces "Are you going to be happy with what you've done in your life on your death bed?"
I often talk about "story arcs" in my blog. For example, the "man in a hole" story arc is "happy-sad-happy" through the film. The story arc of this film is "miserable unpleasant people feeling wretched, then slightly less wretched, then wretched again". It was just not a winning formula for me.
I see that the film is described on imdb as a "comedy drama". I think they are shooting for sort of a female version of "Withnail and I". But, to be honest, while there were a few funny lines that raised a smile, I don't think it was funny enough to merit that description. I certainly didn't remotely agree with the "Hilarious" quote on the poster.
Honest to God, I don't think there is a single frame of this film where there is not wine being poured or drugs being snorted. "You drink with a real sense of mortality", dodgy poet Marty (Dermot Murphy) tells Laura. (This is a great line from scriptwriter Emma Jane Unsworth's script). I can't find what the budget of this film was, but it wouldn't surprise me if 80% of it wasn't spent on bottles of Jacob's Creek. I expected to see a "wine wrangler" listed in the end titles.
It's not a great example to set for young people for sure, and it well deserves its UK15 certificate. With its drug taking, heavy drinking and casual (and morally bankrupt) sex, if I was on the BBFC I would have be lobbying for an 18 certificate.
In terms of the cast, Holliday Grainger is excellent and believable in the role of the aimless drifter suddenly finding an anchor. Another really great performance. Equally good is Alia Shawkat, an actress unknown to me. She gets across brilliantly the desperation of a lost soul losing her soulmate. (I just had trouble separating her character in my mind from Rizzo in "Grease". If they ever remake that film, she would be a shoe-in for the role made famous by Stockard Channing.) By the way, if you're trying to pin down where you've seen Fra Fee's striking features before (it was bugging me) he played the part of Courfeyrac in the film version of "Les Miserables".
Made by Sophie Hyde it's an interesting and well made film. As such, I don't want to give it a savage rating. Many may enjoy it. I personally didn't, and wouldn't watch it again. The primary benefit I got from seeing it was again registering Holliday Grainger as an acting force that I will watch out for in future films.
(For the full graphical review, please check out One Mann's Movies on t'internet or Facebook. Thanks. )
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