Animals - This Bittersweet Movie Rocks
Dir: Sophia Hyde
Starring Holiday Grainger, Alia Shawkat, Fra Fee, Dermot Murphy
Adapted by Emma Jane Unsworth from her own novel, Animals focuses on Laura and Tyler, two girls partying their way through Dublin life for well over a decade now. Laura, a native, has been working on her novel for all that time – and now has around ten pages complete, whilst Tyler, an American, really just wants to keep the party going. Especially with the love of her life – her best friend, Laura. But is that possible as your thirties begin to encroach becomes one of the main questions raised by Hyde’s movie.
Initially, there is the risk that Laura and Tyler might rapidly become tiresome, such is their propensity for drinking, drugging and supporting each other’s unrealised dreams. But soon, the performances of both Grainger and Sawkat drag the viewer into their world, showing us the detail and the nuance of all their relationships, not only their own but those with Laura’s family, who accept Tyler as their own.
But when Laura hooks up with pianist Jim, who – sacrilege – gives up the drink for the sake of his career, we know that things are going to change. And it may not be pretty.
But it is pretty involving. The strength of Unsworth’s screenplay is in the complexity of this central relationship, and subsequently the strength in Hyde’s film is in finding the looks, the gestures in her two leads that speak volumes more than Unsworth’s words ever could.
Yes, there are complications along the way – infidelities (but who is cheating on who really?), wayward romantic poets, wayward emoji poets, discussions (thankfully kept to a minimum) on the nature of creation and if alcohol exacerbates/reduces it. But throughout it all, despite the drunken lost nights and the gradually reducing stolen jar of ketamine, the relationship between these two women – and the fine performances of these two actresses – keep things always engaging.
Yes, it spends too long finding its ending and yes, it’s not an overly satisfying one when it gets there. And yes, there are way too many shots of real yet clumsily metaphorical urban foxes for any one movie/story to live with.
But you’re always involved. And you care about the main duo to the bitter(sweet) end.