Only the Animals
Denis Menochet, Laure Calamy, Damien Bonnard, Guy Roger (‘Bibisse’) N’Drin, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Juliet Doucet
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A cinematic jigsaw puzzle of the highest order.
You suspect you’re in for something strikingly unusual here even before there’s anything to see. A strange screeching sound during the opening credits turns out to be the noise made by a goat on the back of a cyclist, as he rides through the city streets of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. What follows is mostly set in rural southern France, and while it’s less exotic, it’s all every bit as unpredictable. There are faint echoes of Kurosawa’s Rashomon in the sense that the (ingenious) plot is revealed through the successive perspectives of all the main characters; every one of them has a secret, but none of them sees the big picture. And their lives interlock and interweave in complex ways.
If ever there were a film where the less you know about the story going in, this is it. It’s safe enough to reveal, though, that the central mystery revolves around a woman called Evelyne Ducat (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), whose abandoned car is found in the countryside after a snowstorm. Is she dead? Was she murdered – and if so, of course, who did it? The other protagonists include a loner called Joseph who hears voices (an especially well cast Damien Bonnard), a highly strung waitress, a homecare nurse and a confidence trickster.
Only The Animals is moody, atmospheric, labyrinthine, sometimes unsettling and intriguing. Becoming (if anything) inexorably more intense as it goes on, it’s also something of a visual treat with its rich mix of day and night, snow and sunshine, France and West Africa. A cinematic jigsaw puzzle of the highest order.