Only the Animals (M) - 118 minutes
A remarkably well constructed French mystery thriller that is three stories in one, Only The Animals surprises.
Alice Farange (Laure Calamy) is in a loveless marriage in rural France and is having an affair with a strange, loner named Joseph Bonnefille (Damien Bonnard), who barely tolerates her.
Then Bonnefille seemingly callously ditches her and she has no idea why.
There’s a lot more to this story than at first meets the eye, in more ways than one.
A pretty young waitress, Marion (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), falls head over heels for a visiting woman at least 20 years her senior, Evelyne Ducat (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi).
The pair can’t keep their hands off one another, but then Ducat up and leaves.
She is married, but her husband is often absent and Marion tracks her down.
The result though isn’t what she expected.
Armand (Guy Roger ‘Bibisse’ N’Drin) is a young guy – with an interesting back story – living in relative squalor in Africa who dreams of making it big.
He and his mates are scammers, stealing others’ identities to lure in unsuspecting victims on the pretense that they are someone they are not.
On this occasion, Armand assumes Marion’s identity and attracts the attention of Alice Farange’s husband, Michel (Denis Menochet), with disastrous consequences.
For the first 30 or 40 minutes I was convinced I was watching a rather bizarre story set in a farming community concerning a decidedly strange guy and a couple who were having issues.
The next 20 minutes or so concerned unrequited lesbian love and then came the shock of cybercrime from afar.
Wow! What an unlikely combination of factors to attempt to bring together.
Director Dominik Moll, who wrote the piece with Gilles Marchand, from a book by Colin Niel, had a heck of a job in front of him trying to pull this off … and yet he has.
Only The Animals has been very cleverly assembled, such that audience involvement increases the longer the film progresses.
It could well have become a bridge too far and yet I felt it never did, notwithstanding some outlandish behaviour and left of centre scenes, including a few involving Alice’s lover Joseph.
By the third act – as the tension built – I was totally absorbed.
The pivotal characters are nothing if not out there – they are all hiding secrets.
In time, we come to learn that all relates back to that first act, so watch closely and see if you can pick up any clues.
Only the Animals is a rich, original work that will stay with you long after you exit the cinema.
Rated M, it scores an 8 out of 10.