Animals is an Australian/Irish production, directed by Australian director Sophie Hyde and based on the 2014 novel of the same name, by Emma Jane Unsworth.
The film is unapologetically female-centric. The two main characters, Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat), are friends and flatmates, who rely on no one but each other. Their strongly independent facades begin to crack when Laura begins to see a guy, whose personality doesn’t fit in with their partying lifestyle. The male characters are intentionally kept on the periphery.
From the opening scene, the clear standout is Alia Shawkat, who I recognised (and loved) as Maeby from Arrested Development. Co-star Holliday Grainger often feels a little overshadowed and flat compared to Shawkat’s brilliant performance, however the chemistry that this casting brings is undeniably real.
Animals feels quite raw. There are inconsistencies in the pacing jumps that speeds through some major moments (a birth and an engagement), then spends a lot more time on quieter interactions between the characters. Initially this feels jarring, but on reflection those bigger moments are not what the story is about. It is a fearless depiction of the evolution of a friendship from being carefree and playful, to one with different focuses and values. The film also dives from hilarious comedic moments to self reflecting melodrama with a lack of elegance that may have assisted in this stunted flow.
If it is approached without expectation of tone and clarity, Animals is enjoyable, purely to sit back and just go along with the ride that this friendship endures. It is neither light, nor heavy, but simply honest and real. For that alone, Animals needs to be seen.