Review: Animals

Do you have a glass of white wine in hand? In Animals, the latest film by Australian director Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays) about best friends Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) stumbling around Dublin in a haze of wine, drugs, and love for life and each other, white wine flows like lifeblood.

Watching this film evoked memories: I thought about the time my friend read Normal People by Sally Rooney (the book by the 27-year-old author, residing in the tote bags of 20-somethings everywhere) for the first time. It’s a novel about two students attempting to navigate self-hood and adulthood and relationships while at University in Ireland. After reading, my friend came up to me and told me about how much she felt the book —  how it was exactly what she needed to read right now; how it was able to understand and describe and capture specific feelings she didn’t know she felt needed describing. I thought of the time I interviewed a female filmmaker early last year, glasses of white wine clutched in our hands. Flushed with emotion and a little wine drunk in the candlelight, the filmmaker told me passionately about how Greta Gerwig always seemed to make films about experiences she’s just about to go through, due to Gerwig being only a couple years older than her. Frances Ha (2012) — a film about two best friends in their late 20s breaking apart and coming together again; the character Frances in a state of flux in regard to her creative dreams — was there for her when right when she needed it.

Animals strikes me with the same indelible images; with a nuance and understanding that reaches out of the screen into the very heart of the restless soul viewing it. It is a narrative we have seen time and time again, and Hyde does not necessarily contribute anything new to the genre of misfit friends entering their 30s. Yet, I still believe it is the type of film where, if it comes to you at the right time in your life, like the right novel or the right song, it will define everything for you. The feelings are easily transferable, and the film invites you in.

It plays out like a memory: Laura and Tyler, taking on the world together. Like Kings. Like Queens. Smudged eyeliner, and drink in hand, one is like an appendage of the other. Laura is an artist, a genius, and Tyler — “a notable broad about town, I assure you” — is her muse. It does not matter that she has only written ten pages in ten years. If you keep repeating the words “a novel”, one day, a novel will appear. That’s how it works, right? Laura and Tyler, hands clasped tight, eyes wide open, declare “Fuck it” to the world because they are on top of it anyway. Drinking white wine with a defined sense of mortality. Drinking so much white wine it might as well be in an IV drip. White wine gives life or at least makes life bearable. Tyler and Laura. And Jim. Jim isn’t a partier, he can’t keep up. Jim, a classical pianist. Jim knows to order white wine. Jim makes Laura smile. Jim is an artist. Jim inspires habit. Laura sitting at her desk, again and again and again. Hands stay poised over the keyboard. Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. The Word document remains blank. Suddenly it’s Laura and Jim. And Tyler.

Why should getting older mean your life has to change? Why should you ever do something conventionally? You were going to be mavericks, taking on the world your own way, and forgetting about other people’s standards. At what point do you admit defeat? How long can the white wine and drugs in your bloodstream be sustained? In the light of day, the confetti no longer glitters — it’s just dust (and sticky residue, and a pounding headache, and loneliness.) You are going to go through shit. King Princess is going to play while you sit alone at a pub, at the moment when you really need someone. You’re going to question every creative impulse you’re ever had (hell, any impulse you’ve ever hard). The world won’t look the same as it used to. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to feel shitty. You were stronger together. You will continue to be strong. Laura and Tyler. One will forever be a part of the other. Nothing will ever change that.

You are here and here and here and here. One day your partying days will end. One day you will write the book. Do not be afraid of the future. Do not deny who you’ve been. Because one day you will look back and wonder if any of it were real, and you’ll get to say, “all of it.”

Animals will be playing on Sat 8 June, Thurs 13 June and Sat 15 June 2019 as part of the Sydney Film Festival. Visit the SFF website for more info.


Claire White is a writer, bookseller and teen screen tragic from Melbourne, Australia. She is currently undertaking an Honours thesis on Screen & Cultural Studies and has written for Junkee, 4:3, The Big Issue, Screen Queens and more. Follow her at @teencineteq and @theclairencew

Claire White