Animals – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director: Sophie Hyde
Writer: Emma Jane Unsworth
Stars: Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat, Fra Fee
Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) are two young women living a hedonistic existence in Dublin. They have played the field and not held back in the process of having fun. Their lives are fuelled by wine and drugs. Laura’s sister, Jean (Amy Molloy) a former wild child has now found a man and is pregnant. Laura meets Jim (Fra Fee), who is an aspiring concert pianist. He lives in a very different world of self-discipline where he rises early every morning to practise. Another man enters the spectrum, one Marty (Dermot Murphy), an aspiring poet, who adds a literary element to the bohemia on display. Laura’s attempts at writing a novel remain at the early stages of gestation even though she has been at it for a decade. The film recounts a series of incidents and happenings as Laura and Tyler face into the world of their thirties. Their problem is they cannot remain in their wild years forever.
Throughout, the acting is of a high calibre with Grainger and Shawkat blazing the trail. In addition, there is a beautiful invocation of Dublin including the grandeur of its shabbier Georgian houses, the griminess of its back alleys and the harshness of its modern infill architecture. Bryan Mason, the cinematographer, has done a fine job in displaying it in all its complexities. Equally impressive are the funky interiors of Tyler’s flat and that of Marty’s which stand in stark contrast to the more shiny surfaces of Jim’s apartment. All these visual strengths are further enhanced by the splendid costumes by Renate Henschke, with Tyler’s in particular an absolute stand out. Her clothes make it clear that this woman wants to have fun and does so but on her own terms.
The representation of reality is Laura’s family, in particular Jean who personifies the leaving of twenties hedonism and entering thirties pragmatism. It is that battle which Laura faces and which Tyler has no intention of joining.
There are some funny one liners and an excruciatingly embarrassing, drug-fuelled sex scene which Dermot Murphy manages to make brilliantly comic. However, all these fine happenings do not add up to much of a story line. Think of it as a more sophisticated, female version of Withnail and I. Enjoy Laura’s and Tyler’s fast-moving chaotic life and do not bother to over analyse it, it’s an enjoyable ride.