Saturday, January 25, 2014


I regret missing Animals at Fantasia last summer; while I did at least get to see it last night, it was one that I tried to move things around to accommodate, and new friend Gabriela said it was her favorite movie of the festival. It didn't work out, unfortunately, and the audience last night wasn't quite the packed house I'm sure I would have found in Monteral.

It's still a pretty darn good movie, even if I wouldn't have necessarily called it my favorite - The Machine filled that slot for me, but given that it's a bloody bit of hard science fiction while this is a coming-of-age story that moves between whimsical and sad with remarkable dexterity, I'm not sure that they should be directly compared.

At any rate, if you're reading this on Saturday January 25th, you've got three chances to see it this afternoon/evening, as it's playing in the micro-cinema at the Somerville Theatre as part of the Somerville Subterranean Cinema series at 5pm, 8pm, and 10pm tonight. For a small room with Blu-ray projection, it looks pretty good. If you can't make it, it is available on DVD and Amazon's streaming service, and SCT's next program is on 21/22 February, when they'll be showing the thriller Coyote.

One aside, about writing the review: I try to avoid tipping anything that I don't figure would be in the preview/synopsis/etc., which means I dance around SPOILERS! Pol kissing Ikari !SRELIOPS, but I'm not sure I should. Keeping that bit hidden doesn't necessarily feel like hiding a plot twist, but as treating that as something to keep hidden, which doesn't sit right with me and certainly isn't the impression of either my attitudes nor the movie's that I want to convey. Not sure how to get that across without spoiling a surprise, though.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 24 January 2014 in the Somerville Theatre's micro-cinema (Somerville Subterranean Cinema, Blu-ray)

Animals is a coming-of-age story that perches right on the border between an impressive level of ambition and complexity on the one side and trying to do too much on the other. There's a whole movie just in how the teenage protagonist is stumbling around with this new attraction thing, but director Marçal Forés and his two co-writers have a lot of other things going on as well, and that's before you get to the talking teddy bear.

The bear, Deerhoof, belongs to Pol (Oriol Pla), a seemingly-average teenager in Catalonia. He lives with his older brother Llorenç (Javier Beltrán), attends an English-language high school with his best friend Laia (Roser Tapias), spending enough time together that his other friend Mark (Dimitri Leonidas) teases they're already engaged, although how each feels about that is open for debate. They spend some time watching a pair of further-outsiders: Ikari (Augustus Prew), who mostly avoids the other students, and Clara (Maria Rodríguez), who has been acting strange since nearly drowning a little while ago and soon disappears.

The film is undoubtedly Pol's story, but one of the impressive things about it is that this is in many ways more a function of Forés training the camera on him than anything else. The climax of the movie involves a number of characters who were outside Pol's circle, but despite their relatively fleeting appearances in the film up until then, they all seem real enough, not just there to accomplish one thing or fill out a scene. It's an impressive bit of work by Forés and the young cast, with Roser Tapieas and Augustus Prew especially noteworthy as the two people who spend the most time with Pol, along with Javier Beltrán as a brother clearly not sure how to act as a guardian (literally, as he has recently started as a policeman) and Martin Freeman as the kids' art history teacher.

Full review at EFC.

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