Growing older is hard, growing up is harder.
An Australian-Irish co-production set in and around Dublin, best mates Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat), the lives of any and every party, booze, cruise and revel their way around the city. Not so content with Laura’s sister Jean (Amy Molloy) announcing her retirement from the gang due to pregnancy and an ever-dreaded move to the suburbs, rifts soon emerge in what for long has been an idyllic existence.
This author themselves having only recently travelled to Ireland to observe a milestone to which both our leads can plot-wise relate, Animals is without question for a large if constrictive demographic. Eminently identifiable for those at a stage of their lives where it’s staples begin to unhinge, fairly a phenomenon indeterminate of age, Australian Director Sophie Hyde’s latest marks a particular conflict between reckless abandon and heedful resolve that will characterise a formative stage of many in their 20s and 30s.
With Laura intent for ten years on writing her novel, laughing off the few steps she’s taken as Tyler and her ferry each other between all-nighters, the pressure gradually emerges. What Animals does well is that it doesn’t take a finite or necessarily defined stand; chronicling the perils and attributes of balance rather than pivoting to that ‘responsible’ or living endlessly in the moment.
What it doesn’t do well is doing so much of it so blatantly with Tyler above all, granted a lyrical and statedly literal person, spelling out these varied approaches every few scenes. That which frustratingly becomes repetitive reaches a groan-inducing height at her own rendition of one of this decade’s most famous pop songs, very relevant here to the particular stage in proceedings, as Laura waltzes out in the only sequence in the film rendered in slow motion.
The other musical segments, alternating between rock/punk influences and the stunning addition of traditional Irish rhythms fare much better, as does Grainger, nailing the Dublin accent. Born in Manchester, incidentally the original staging for the novel whose author Emma Jane Unsworth doubled as the screenwriter, the whole team does well to make best use of Dublin as it’s setting. Initiating the city as a character in and of itself and utilising it’s creative strands and narrow laneways to great effect, the film still regretfully does not bear the palpable, lived-in sense of Ireland one could garner from a number of other local productions, among them say the recent Dublin Oldschool which took evident and strong inspiration from the city’s party scene.
Packed with cutting, witty dialogue, vivid encounters and an immediately impassioned dynamic between its two abounding leads, Animals may or may not direct you where to go in life but if you feel like living it up in the moment for a couple of hours it’s got you covered.
For our interview with Animals Director Sophie Hyde see here
Animals screens as part of the Sydney Film Festival on Saturday 8 June at 8:30PM at the Randwick Ritz, Thursday the 13th of June at 8:30PM at the Hayden Orpheum Cremorne and Saturday 15 June at 9PM at Event Cinemas George Street