We’ve (maybe) all had those drunken, blackout nights with a hangover serving as the only memory of the fact you’d been on the tiles but what if you constantly carried on this trend of drugs and alcohol? ‘Animals’ is such a film to explore the riotous behaviour of two friends and it’s an expressive piece to say the least.
Laura (Holliday Grainger) cannot seem to get her story past ten pages as she leads a life of drink and tomfoolery with long-time pal Tyler (Alia Shawkat). Together they traverse the ups and downs of female friendship as Laura becomes enamoured by pianist Jim (Fra Fee); who happens to exist in a much more mannered world not ruled by liquor.
Sophie Hyde directs the words and wisdom of screenwriter Emma Jane Unsworth; who just happened to author the book that this 2019 Sundance premiered film is based on. They both manage to evoke a strength in the portrayal of the pair of women. Through the script and direction, the streets of Dublin come alive as the shenanigans of Laura and Tyler take hold. What works, isn’t just the believable haze of their alcohol-fuelled partnership but the fall outs and coming together; their past and present as friends being an unspoken bond through thick and thin.
‘Animals’ is a drama which focuses in on animal imagery, from cats and foxes to a spider weaving its home. This arachnid theme mirrors the progression of Laura, a 32 year old woman who is trapped in her very own web of forgetting a whole decade and struggling to complete a novel. It also works for the desire of the story for a woman to free the spider, as she too maybe hopes to escape the life she has lead.
Tyler and Laura are a tenacious twosome, they’re incredible examples of fun but also self-destructive personalities. They stalk the Irish pavements like midnight animals and it’d be fair to say they can often be viewed as a blurry mess but gladly the film isn’t. The movie swiftly has us thrown into their antics and see-sawing relationship and the idea of late 20’s/early 30’s striving to life every day as it could be your last is most definitely felt throughout the story.
The film may not be for everyone but if you’re of similar age to the women in this feature then the fear of missing out and the desire to live it up and not let life pass you by is a notion that hits home. Everyone wants to have a good time but there does come a point when the constant thirst to drink and go out can be looked at as a tragic state by those around you, which is what happens in this film. The pressurising way that Tyler holds on to Laura is where the conflict rises and it’s as the latter possibly finds a way into normal adulthood with Jim that the film becomes compelling.
Grainger is a dreamy choice as the writer facing a brick wall, but she doesn’t solely um and ah as a lacklustre producer of literature, she positively crackles as a fiery woman rooted to the ideals of youthful abandon yet pressed for a more normal, or civilian life as Tyler calls it. Plus her Irish accent is stunning. Shawkat has plenty of quips and brings comic touches but you’d be hard-pressed to connect to her. It’s hard to root for her because she’s so much of a party animal and enclosing grip on Laura’s life, that you’re practically screaming out for Laura to get away.
The only main weakness this vivid burst of conflict and crazy has is that it could have done with being trimmed slightly, the onset of feeling the run-time does occur but thanks to the charged performance of Shawkat and the mesmerising turn from Grainger, ‘Animals’ is a wild ride.