- Film & TV
- 07 Aug 19
Four stars out of five for Sophie Hyde's Dublin-set drama.
In Sophie Hyde’s Animals, one character opines “The trying is the thing. I’ve always thought we’re not defined by who we are but who we try to be.”
Animals is about characters who are trying. Not in the performative sense - though that too, sometimes - but just struggling, and carrying on. Hyde and screenwriter Emma Jane Unsworth (adapting her own novel) throw us in the deep end of a decade long friendship between Dubliner Laura (Holliday Grainger) and irrepressible American transplant Tyler (Alia Shawkat.) They are each other’s champions, confidantes and wingwomen through a whirlwind of drug-fuelled parties, casual sex, and endless boozy brunches.
Grainger and Shawkat’s chemistry is sublime, capturing the specific intimacy of female friendship, and the co-dependency that can turn toxic if the relationship doesn’t allow for evolution or growth.
Now in her 30s, Laura feels torn between the pressure to settle down with straightedge boyfriend Jim (Fra Fee), Tyler’s desire to keep the party going as long as possible, and another alternative that Laura can’t quite visualise. Grainger’s performance is nuanced and expressive, conveying Laura’s charm, intelligence and insecurity all in one moment.
Hyde’s poetic vision embodies the beautifully raw and transient experience of her characters. The costumes are eclectic thrift-store concoctions featuring Repeal jumpers and Wyvern Lingo t-shirts. The gaze and depiction of physicality is utterly female, including one scene that necessarily decimates young men’s pornified view of sex. Dublin is captured in the neon glow of streetlights and hazy drunken sunrises.
But Hyde and Unsworth never judge their characters’ choices, and don’t prescribe a one-life-fits-all narrative for women. Instead, they embrace the messiness of life, and the possibilities.
Read our full interview with Animals director Sophie Hyde in the new issue of Hot Press: