Let’s get right to the setup, Animals stars Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat as Laura and Tyler, respectively, they’re best friends, living together in a riotous storm of hedonistic bliss and chaos, drinking to excess, taking whatever drugs they wish to, just paying the rent month-to-month and loving every moment of their co-habiting debauchery.
Directed by Sophie Hyde and based on the novel by Emma Jane Unsworth, who also penned the screenplay, her intimacy with the characters is nothing but an unconditional bonus from start to finish. Laura and Tyler feel as tangible as any great friendship, with all the peaks and troughs you’d expect, and with that comes a plethora of passion, realism and honesty for both of them to deal with.
While Laura (Grainger) is a hopeful writer, Tyler is much more off-the-wall despite them both loving the party life. It’s clear that Tyler is the alpha, dragging Laura to places and commonly encouraging/pushing her along to get in on the good-times. But, when Laura meets Jim (played by the talented Fra Fee), and starts to fall for him, Tyler tries to convince her that she can have Jim and continue the craziness but – of course – Laura doesn’t quite feel that can work and begins to feel torn between the silence of the suburbs and a natural desire to abandon responsibility.
Whereas this can be the base to many a coming-of-age style, Animals steers away from the cliché and this is mainly down to two top-class performances from the leading ladies. Somehow, this didn’t feel like your classic toxic relationship. Laura’s more than adept of knowing who she is but the difference that grows between them isn’t just a boy, it’s what they think they want from their lives. What makes Animals thought-provoking is that the pair feel like actual people, with honest self-doubts, lingering fears over the future and that hurricane of the unknown that your late 20s and early 30s can drag you into without even realising. I’ve been there. I felt their stories in moments from my life.
For me, Animals delves into the heart of creativity, the struggle with the hunt for uniqueness that any artist (of any kind) goes through all the time. There’s a good scene with Jim who suggests that we all (and Laura in this case) gets over an ‘obsession with perfection’ when creating. That’s smart advice and it’s reflected as the story progresses in every character through their mistakes and learning processes.
Animals gives its audience an insight into two modern women, fighting and laughing their way in the world but still remaining independent and unique, as everyone should be. Hyde’s direction, alongside cinematography from Bryan Mason, puts us right in middle of their lives, feeling every moment and not hiding away. It’s refreshing to watch two people at this age, instead of the younger 20s, who aren’t necessarily finding a perfect ending, life’s about making your own choices for you. This is a journey worth getting involved with, that’s for sure, and it’s got a killer soundtrack which makes it even better.
Animals, from Picturehouse Entertainment, comes to DVD, Blu-ray and Digital from 6 January 2020.
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