Drama films

Only the Animals review – audacious canvas of love and weirdness | Drama movies

Ja few years ago, director Dominik Moll caused a stir at Cannes with his psychological shock noir comic book Harry, A Friend Who Wants You Well, starring the incomparably disturbing Sergi López – a film with the kind of delicious cruelty and sophistication that only the French can produce. His title here has been rendered inelegantly as Harry, He’s Here to Help, although I made a doomed attempt to popularize my own version: Harry wants to be your friend. After that, Moll had several credits, but nothing up to this film which promised us a filmmaker like Claude Chabrol.

But now Moll has given us this daring, witty and gripping mystery thriller, a tale of adultery and crazy Love with a gamey touch of the macabre – adapted by Moll and his longtime collaborator Gilles Marchand from Colin Niel’s novel Only The Beasts. It’s about five people and their relationship with a sixth person who will meet a terrifying and arbitrary fate. The film introduces us to these six overlapping lives in turn, with ingenious point-of-view shifts that will explain away an apparent quirk or anomaly in the previous scene and set us up to pull an all-in in the next, letting us into a secret, then coldly pushing us away.

The unfortunate woman at the center of this spider’s web is the wealthy, married Evelyne Ducat, whose business takes her to Sète in southern France but whose lifestyle leaves her emotionally unfulfilled. She’s played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and she has a big moment that compels her to give a catlike grin of panicked, thin-lipped irritation at a lover, before unleashing the vengeful, petulant slap that is to seal her fate.

Near where Evelyne lives is a farm run by the moody Michel, terribly played by veteran French actor Denis Ménochet, a man beaming with doom, made gray and carefree by hard work and the compulsion to keep secrets. His wife, Alice, played with a poignant emotional wound by Laure Calamy (known for the Netflix television comedy Call My Agent), meets neighboring farmer Joseph (Damien Bonnard), a reclusive and difficult man, going through an emotional breakdown after the dead. of his beloved mother. And then there is the beautiful and slender Marion, played by Nadia Tereszkiewicz, who serves at the tables in Sète.

Like the operation of a clever music box… Only the Animals

Most mysterious of all is Armand, a young man from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, who is seen at the very beginning riding a bicycle somewhere with a goat on his back – a sacrificial goat, perhaps- to be ? He’s on his way to a local gang leader, Papa Sanou (Christian Ezan), who wields a voodoo influence and sums up the film’s ethos by telling Armand, “Chance is stronger than you, idiot!” Poor Armand longs to be rich and is still in love with a young woman who is the mother of his child but is now with a wealthy European. Armand speaks of a “colonial debt”.

These people provide the building blocks of the film, which intertwine like the workings of a complex and malignant music box, creating outbursts of melodrama, erotic obsession and even soap opera, all superbly performed. In a way, each of these people occupies a short story, an individual mini-movie, but they all find themselves in the Venn diagram’s overlapping destiny, and their lives are made to fit together like the movies of the sequence of the three colors of Kieslowski from 1993. -94, or the Trilogy of Lucas Belvaux from 2002.

The words…Are Happy could appear at the end of the title of this movie. It’s about human beings who desperately yearn for something they don’t or can’t have – and who denigrate the bars of their own loneliness. The gnomic Papa Sanou rightly says something else: “Love is giving what you don’t have.” For many of these people, love is about making demands, trying to get the best deal, or trying to escape a terrible bargain on the direction of their life that they can’t remember taking. They want to take love and have nothing to give back.

Only the Animals is on Curzon Home Cinema from May 29.