Movie

Only the Animals by Dominik Moll

“Only the Animals” by Dominik Moll is one of those films that you can experience best if you know as little as possible. Of course, this is a challenge for anyone tasked with writing about it — how can one discuss it in substance without ruining some of the many surprises along the way. To this end, I will strive to be as brief and vague as possible about the details of the plot. But my advice is that if you have an interest in watching the movie (spoiler alert: you should), you should probably set this review aside for the moment to watch the movie yourself, and then come back after to find out how brilliant and accurate my analysis was. Believe me, it does not bother me.

The film, which takes place mainly, though not entirely, in a rural village in the French mountains, begins with the disappearance of Evelyne Ducat (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), a woman of Parisian society of some importance, staying in her elegant winter holiday home. Her car was found leaved on the side of the road, but otherwise there is no trace of her anywhere. While television is broadcasting updates about the matter, a local police officer, Cédric (Bastien Bouillon), interviews some residents in the hope of finding something that leads to either Evelyne’s discovery or at least a rational explanation for his apparent disappearance on the air. A local woman, Alice (Laure Calamy), an insurance agent, has trouble believing that someone from the area could be involved. Needless to say, the rest of the film shows how wrong this assumption is.

At this point, I will only mention the key characters who will play a role in the following narrative. There is, as mentioned, Alice, who is unhappily married and is currently having an affair with one of her clients, Joseph (Damien Bonnard), a hermit still in the surprise of the recent passed away of his beloved mother and who can not help but create an atmosphere reminiscent of that of a particularly notorious motel owner. There’s Alice’s sad husband Michel (Denis Menochet), who seems to know all about his affair with Joseph and has been acting weirder than usual lately. There’s also Marion (Nadia Tereskiewicz), a young waitress who comes to town to make a surprise visit to her new lover, and you can probably guess how well things are going. Finally, there is Armand (Guy Roger “Bibisse” N’drin), a young man living in Côte D’Ivoire, who became a telephone scammer in order to make a lot of money quickly and hopefully win back his old girlfriend (Marie Victoire Amie), who has made contact with a rich and secret old man.

Since the film is based on the strange disappearance of a woman and takes place mainly in a wintry place, you can already make mental comparisons between “Only the Animals” and the Coen brothers classic “Fargo”.”However, Moll and his co-author Gilles Marchand, who is working on a novel by Colin Niel, have something more ambitious in mind. Instead of telling the story in a linear way, they instead rely on an elaborate flashback structure divided into five sections — each focused on one of the aforementioned characters— that allows us to gradually discover the previously not-known links between each and the disappeared woman. The effect is less reminiscent of”Fargo “and more of something like” Short Cuts”or” Magnolia”, although I also returned to Michael Haneke’s quietly evil” Cache “.

Sometimes I get annoyed by movies that use elaborate puzzle structures to tell their story, but that’s not the matter here. If it is a certain pleasure to see how the story takes shape before our eyes, the characters and the performances are just as interesting as the structure. All the key people in the story are vaguely dissatisfied with their lives and strive to find some kind of happiness in a way that in the end has strange effects, both for themselves and for others in their orbit. The performances are also quite strong, with the most interesting of Bruni-Tedeschi in the role of the not-found woman and Tereskiewicz, who is terribly good in the role of the Loving waitress, who is by far the most honest of all and is always caught in a web of lies.

I’m not entirely sure, at least on the basis of a single viewing, that all the different twists of the script add up in the end, and some viewers may be a little frustrated at how often it relies on pure coincidence to get things going. (The final binding twist that emerges in the final moments is particularly glaring. But overall, “Only the Animals” is an effective and compelling slow-burning thriller that marks Moll’s welcome comeback, which first made a splash with the viciously entertaining thriller “With a Friend Like Harry”.”Needless to say, this is the kind of movie that you have to pay a lot of attention to in order for it to make sense, but those who make an effort will be rewarded.

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