Only the Animals
If French director Dominik Moll was more prolific, he might be recognised as one of the more intriguing international filmmakers working today in the thriller genre following his terrific 2000 flick Harry, He’s Here to Help and the 2005 Palme D’or competitor Lemming. Only the Animals further evidences this filmmaker’s dexterity in creating mystery, suspense, and a tense, skilfully constructed yarn.
In this cold winter story set in the south of France, there are five people linked to the disappearance of a woman from a small village. Happy-go-lucky social worker Alice (Laure Calamy) is having an affair with Joseph (Damien Bonnard), who seems to know the most about the missing woman and keeps her dead body in a farmhouse for inexplicable reasons until all the threads have slowly unfolded. That leads us on to Evelyne (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), two social-class opposites who engage in a love affair that soon turns ugly.
The fifth element is a young con artist who works in the Ivory Coast called Armand (Guy Roger N’Drin). He coaxes Alice’s dreary husband Michel (Denis Ménochet) into sending him money by assuming a fake identity that exploits Michel’s lovelorn status. The bold structure requires patience and attention but cumulatively pays off in engaging ways and recalls the pre-Birdman works of Alejandro González Iñárritu such as Babel and Amores Perros: the style of storytelling that takes disparate narratives and remarkably coheres them. Moll doesn’t have the same strong cinematography as those Iñárritu movies – it would’ve been of great benefit for this story to be captured through a gritty lens too – but where it lacks in the visual sense, it makes up for it in character work and editing.
It’s quite awkward to recommend Only the Animals, a dark film about lies, loneliness and the ugly heart of human nature (albeit not without moments of humour), during such a difficult period in our lifetimes, but sometimes sombre films can provide catharsis. If one has the emotional capacity to watch something of this sort right now, Only the Animals is worth seeing.
Only the Animals is released digitally on demand on 29th May 2020.
Watch the trailer for Only the Animals here: