Only The Animals

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Only The Animals
"An enjoyably constructed puzzle box of a genre film."

If you want to know what a goat having a piggy back on a bike in Africa has in common with dysfunctional relationships and a disappearance in wintry France, you'll have to wait quite a while in Dominik Moll's thriller, which reveals its cleverly worked secrets slowly.

The story is as twisty as the roads that wind through the parts of rural France where Michel (Denis Ménochet) and Alice (Laure Calamy) run a farm. They are just two of the characters whose connections will be gradually revealed - Rashomon-style from various perspectives - alongside fellow farmer Joseph (Damien Bonnard), Evelyne (Valeri Bruni Tedeschi), who is staying in her second home in the area, young waitress Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) and Armand (Guy Roger 'Bibisse' N'Drin), who lives half a world away.

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To reveal much about the plot beyond the fact that there is a quiet dissatisfaction about all the characters, would be to spoil the dark fun that Moll and his co-writers Gilles Marchand and Colin Niel have crafted as they pull the perspective this way and that until the whole story is finally revealed. "I don't like lies," one character declares - and much of the film is built on them. Lies told to spouses, lies told for profit and, most dangerously perhaps, the lies the characters tell themselves. The other factor in the film is chance, which one character is told "is greater than you".

There is a lot of coincidence here and though it arguably gets pushed a bit far in the film's final 15 minutes for the sake of a neat ending - the one moment when the action becomes predictable - for the most part it remains deliciously plausible. Each character is carefully carved and played from Ménochet's moody and unhappy with his lot Michel to Bonnard's disturbing Joseph and little lovesick Marion.

This may be a cool indictment of self-centred humanity - matched by chilly scoring from Benedikt Schiefer - that shows how apparently small follies can have drastic consequences, but it's also an enjoyably constructed puzzle box of a genre film that delivers plenty of surprises.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2020
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Only The Animals packshot
Thriller centring on the disappearance of a woman.

Director: Dominik Moll

Writer: Gilles Marchand, Dominik Moll, Colin Niel

Starring: Damien Bonnard, Bastien Bouillon, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Laure Calamy, Denis Ménochet, Nadia Tereszkiewicz

Year: 2019

Runtime: 116 minutes

Country: France, Germany

Festivals:

London 2019

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