Cinema Review: ANIMALS

Posted 6 months ago in Cinema Reviews

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Director: Sophie Hyde

Talent: Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat

Released: 2 August

Sex, drugs, and… friendship? This is what has bonded Laura and Tyler together for the past ten years, and it is what they continue to seek – and abuse – throughout Sophie Hyde’s Animals. Set in Dublin, this film is both a meditation on the present moment in a centuries-old city, and a quarter-life coming-of-age story about two women faced with the universal question: Must we grow up?

Laura (played graciously by Holliday Grainger) is a 32-year-old woman being challenged by her own morality. We first meet her in the midst of a hangover, each of her limbs tied to bed posts with her own clothing. She self-identifies as a writer, but has written only ten pages in the past ten years. More accurately, she is a barista that carries a notebook around in the large pockets of her chic charity-shop jackets, always poised to write down a fleeting thought, phrase or worry.

Her best friend and flatmate is Tyler (played perfectly by Alia Shawkat), an emphatic American wild child who acts as Laura’s supportive, though destructive, quasi-wife. We first meet her as she answers the calls of a tethered Laura, strolling into the bedroom in only underwear and an open kimono, like a morning-after disco queen. She, too, is in a dead-end job – and hungover.

Together, the women love white wine, MDMA, cocaine and sex. Separately, however, Laura wants to get married and move out of their Dublin flat, while Tyler wants a sustained life of polygamy and casual hook-ups.

The relationship with Laura’s love interest, a knock-off Jon Snow type (played by Fra Fee), is just one of many cracks perforating the women’s curated life of reckless freedom. Laura’s ex-party girl sister has settled down in the suburbs, with a baby on the way, and Tyler has lost her job as a barista, as well as her seemingly estranged father.

Thus comes the dwindling end of their Thelma and Louise double feature, pistols ablazing. It isn’t graceful, or tidy, or moralistic; and the characters aren’t either. However, we’re not asked to sympathise with either of the women, only to understand Laura’s helpless desire to make something of herself and Tyler’s desperate plea for everything to stay fun, sparkly and a little bit punk rock.

This story, adapted from Emma Jane Unsworth’s novel of the same name, rages against the expected and overused plot points about womanhood, female friendship and modern love. The result is a film that feels raw: relatable, yet gritty and seductive.

It also feels perfectly placed in a city that is in constant battle between preserving the old and tearing it down to make room for the new. Dublin’s Georgian houses and classic party venues (Sin É makes an appearance), contrasted with the city’s trendy bridal shops and chic rooftop bars, tell just as much of a story as the internal conflict between the two women.

Animals is inviting us into a world that we can’t help but simultaneously yearn for and recoil from; one that is all too familiar, yet ever evolving. In it, we join Laura and Tyler as they stumble through drug deals, careless nights and carnal desire – and then, at the end, we too are faced with the requirement of growing up.

Words: Hannah McKennett

Illustration: Sam Geraghty


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