Animals, starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat.

Animals review: a beautiful ode to real female friendships

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Director Sophie Hyde presents a refreshing take on a long under-explored relationship

There are few things more precious than our closest friendships. They can be intimate, obsessive and, at times, painfully messy. Long under-explored in film, Animals – with a script by Emma Jane Unsworth and adapted from her novel of the same name – take on the all-consuming force of female friendship as other life options come into view. 

Holliday Grainger, fresh from her star turn in Strike, the TV series adapted from JK Rowling’s detective novels, is compelling and believable as Laura, an aspiring writer who has been bouncing around Dublin with her best friend, barista and fellow rebel-come-muse, Tyler – Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development fame.

In this bold attempt by award-winning Australian director Sophie Hyde – who broke out with debut film 52 Tuesdays about a unique mother-daughter relationship – the best friends are so close they speak in shorthand. The audience plays keep-up from the outset in Animals as the dialogue between the two is delivered in poetic musings. It’s a little contrived; much better is the film’s exploration of their fluctuating friendship.

Laura and Tyler, high on narcotics and the strength of their bond (they cosy up in bed and inspect each other’s poo) are determined to keep playing out their youth as they hurtle towards 30, resisting responsibility without having to face up to the mundanity of work. But their hedonistic high is derailed when Laura falls, desperately, disappointingly (for Tyler) in love with tee-total Jim (Fra Fee), unremarkable save his talent as a pianist. 

For Tyler, this represents a departure from a decade-long pact. Laura has been coaxed by “the non-sound of the suburbs. They sell it as peace but really it’s just death, closing in,” says her friend, who remains intoxicated with sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll – and now, a fierce jealousy.

“My feminism is about blazing a new way through old traditions,” insists Laura when Tyler accuses her of getting caught up in trappings that they have, hitherto, lived in protest against.

Ultimately, both their foundations are shaken in this hyperactive jaunt that, thanks to captivating cinematography and costume design, is also a feast for the eyes.

Animals is in UK cinemas now

Image: Tamara Hardman

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Kemi J Williams

Kemi J Williams is a film critic for Stylist magazine. She thrives on analysing all things on screen from cult classics to daring dystopias. Ardent about empowering girls and women, she can also be found teaching secondary English while juggling the joys and challenges of motherhood. You can catch her latest musings on Twitter and Instagram @KemiJWilliams.

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