I Write These Movie Reviews Locked in the Trunk of Your Car. Thanks for the Snacks!!
Colin Niel(novel); Dominik Moll and Gilles Marchand
For the record, Only The Animals is (by far) the best French crime thriller mystery whodunit technically released in 2019 but was finally released in fall of 2021 to audiences not terrified of subtitles. It’s one of those movies that you really have to pay attention to as things shown early in the movie pay off in the final 30 min---
Oh yeah, while I’m writing this, the 5th entry into the Scream franchise is opening on the same weekend and by the time I finish this sentence some of you will have seen it more than once and the identity or identities of the killer(s) might still come as a surprise.
But, if you wasted your life sitting through last December’s inane Matrix Resurrections, then reading subtitles to watch a very good movie shouldn’t be too much of a sacrifice.
Yes. You just asked that.
No, I can’t take your picture because I have to do this review.
Are you sure you need subtitles?
I guess I’ll just start then.
Only the Synopsis
Be warned. Only the Animals is best when viewed without knowing anything about it, as a general synopsis might ruin some of the surprises. It’s a smaller scale hyperlink movie with time jumps and time parallels with doubling back to scenes you’ve seen before only this time from a new perspective. Its comparisons to Fargo are apt only in the broadest sense.
Animals were not harmed during the writing of this review. Only the production assistants.
How to begin a review when I want to be as vague as possible yet still convey how good this movie is.
Only The Animals is divided into sections named after some of the characters. Let’s meet some of them. And be as ambiguous as possible as to how they will eventually connect.
Alice (Laure Calamy) works as a physical therapist or an insurance adjuster or something where she has to drive around the countryside and meet with patrons. There was a giant snowstorm the previous night and she’s out to see some of her clients that might have been affected. One of her stops is to a rather guarded man named Joseph (Damien Bonnard). There’s something off about Joseph. He seems very distracted.
Alice then proceeds to have sex with Joseph. That’s awfully considerate behavior for an insurance adjuster or physical therapist. Despite above and beyond customer service from Alice, Joseph still doesn’t seem into it. Why is he so preoccupied?
Alice leaves to go back home. She sees an abandoned car on the side of the road. That’s disconcerting.
Alice arrives home. She says hello to her husband Michel (Denis Menochet) but he’s preoccupied with work. Alice’s nosy father asks out loud if she and Michel still f*ck. Alice doesn’t answer and Alice’s dad takes it to mean no.
Alice sees on TV that there is a missing woman named Evelyn (Valeria Tedeschi) who’s been lost since the storm. She knows missing Evelyn it’s the car she saw on the road earlier, not too far a distance from Joseph’s house.
Everybody pays attention when a white person goes missing…
Michel knows that Alice and Joseph are more than just client and service provider. You get the feeling he’s not happy but rather resigned to it.
Meanwhile, our preoccupied friend Joseph is also aware of Evelyn, the missing woman, but not in the way you’d expect.
Maybe we shouldn’t spoil it for our viewers.
Now you’re just reaching.
Needless to say, if you’ve seen movies like this before you know that Evelyn missing will cause a chain reaction for all of our characters in ways you won’t see coming.
Because every character involved has something to hide.
There was a snowstorm and a white woman is missing. When the snow thaws, so will the secrets.
I’ve done my best to keep this synopsis within the first 20-25 minutes so if you watch it you can let the surprises unfold and clap your hands in delight as you do when movies like this work.
What Works With Only The Animals
- The intricate screenplay by director Dominik Moll and Giles Marchand (based on the novel by Colin Niel) works not because of any gimmicky structure you’ve seen in countless movies, but because the characters are so well drawn. Each character is important to the story, but rarely in the ways you’d anticipate. The script is full of surprises, not just plot wise, but with character moments you don’t usually expect in movies like these. I’ve only seen this once, but I suspect another viewing will resonate deeper.
- As the missing woman Evelyn, Valeria Tedeschi gives the best performance in a movie full of good performances. To elaborate more would be considered a spoiler but let’s just say we already knew she was Ghostface from the way she interacted with Stu and Billy Loomis.
- A final scene that ties everything together in a way the makes you replay the entire movie in your head. And yes, it holds up.
What Doesn’t Work With Only The Animals
- The chapter titled “Amandine” is the only part of the movie that doesn’t quite live up to the chapters preceding it. It does nothing to detract from your overall enjoyment but it does stall is there’s nothing all the exciting about watching two people type on a computer for any extended amount of time.
If you like snow and subtitles and crime and missing white women and an old man and ____ and ______ when you least expect it then you and your favorite animals should see Only the Animals. After you’ve seen Scream (2022) of course. Only the Animals is one of the best movies of 2019…2021, but not 2020.