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Film Review: The Farewell

“Chinese People Have A Saying; When People Get Cancer, They Die…”

First released to the public at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to overly positive critical and audience reviews, The Farewell comes to British cinemas this week with an impressively widespread general release, particularly for a movie which predominantly relies on the use of subtitles, an art of which the lay cinema fan still seems to strangely shy away from. Directed and written by Beijing born filmmaker, Lulu Wang, The Farewell is a comedic drama based in-part on her own experience involving her elderly grandmother who was hidden from the truth of her terminal cancer diagnosis by her own family, a decision of which in Chinese culture is apparently relatively common and surprisingly lawful. Portrayed as a sort of indie inspired, heartfelt comedy from its’ supporting trailer, Wang’s movie is indeed an interesting, minimal and contemplative piece, one which takes much pleasure in exploring a particular culture completely alien to that of most Westerners including myself, but with a strangely flat pacing and a onenote idea which runs out of steam come the hour mark, The Farewell is clearly a project made with an abundance of passion, but as a film, failed to completely draw me in on an emotional level and thus come the final hurdle, becomes slightly benign and immediately forgettable.

Following up from interesting supporting performances in the likes of Ocean’s 8 and the vastly superior cultural comedy, Crazy Rich Asians, Awkwafina this time takes the lead role as Billi, the supposed fictional stand-in for Wang who upon hearing about her family’s decision to hide the traumatic news from her grandmother, Nai Nai, played in a rather excellent form by Zhao Shuzhen, takes the long trip over to China in order to engage in a makeshift family wedding, a particular event used as an excuse for the family to reunite in order to see their beloved matriarch for potentially the final time. With the comedic quips minimal in favour of long, drawn-out shots of contemplative nothingness, the pace of the movie does feel bafflingly lifeless, and even when at the heart of the story is a plot device which should naturally woo the hearts of even the sturnest audience member, the truth is that at no time did I really care about anyone on-screen throughout the course of a hundred minutes which in all honesty, felt closer to the two hour mark, a negative aspect if ever there was one. With my mind not fully engaged therefore, the excellent performances do sort of become taken for granted, whilst the interesting cultural examinations don’t really make any real difference, and with a concluding act which doesn’t make any narrative sense and sort of makes the entire point of the movie completely pointless, Wang’s movie is clearly made with a lot of heart, but it still lacked that key ingredient you need from a drama; drama.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: It: Chapter Two

“Something Happens When You Leave This Town. The Farther Away, The Hazier It All Gets. But Me, I Never Left. I Remember All Of It…”

With It surprising both critics and audiences alike back in 2017 as it proudly declared itself as not just one of the best films of the year but undoubtedly one of the best Stephen King cinematic adaptations of all time, this week finally brings with it the release of Chapter Two, the hotly anticipated concluding tale of the battle between Pennywise the Dancing Clown and The Losers’ Club, one set twenty seven years after the events of the previous film as we see our returning heroes return to the town of Derry in order to face the fearful figure which has haunted them throughout their individual lives. Directed by the returning Andy Muschietti, Chapter Two continues the Argentine’s dedicated affection for the original King novel as he brings to the big screen a three hour long, horror adventure epic which, in a similar fashion to the original source material, is thrilling, well orchestrated and thunderously entertaining, but a film which also annoyingly suffers drastically from an overlong and poorly managed runtime, bloated pacing issues and an over reliance on very repetitive set pieces, factors of which at times puts shivers down your spine in completely the wrong way as you cry out for a cold-hearted editor to cut away the deadwood in order to create a film which would have proudly stood head to head with the 2017 original but instead, is clearly the inferior chapter of the two.

With Chapter Two of course set twenty seven years after the events of the first film, the opening movement of the movie takes time to re-introduce the adult form of our beloved Losers, most of whom have managed to move away from the confines of Derry and into successful lives elsewhere until they are quickly brought back to their homeland by Isaiah Mustafa’s Mike Hanlon, the only remaining member of the pack still residing in Derry, who quickly realises that the threat of Bill Skarsgård’s ominous Pennywise has once again returned. With the reunion party out of the way and memories of their childhood slowly rising back to the surface, the narrative then sees each of the Losers each attempt to fully remember the reason for their return, a clever plot device which allows the story to weave in and out of time shifts as we dive deeper into the lives of the Losers younger selves and further chance encounters with our beloved baby-headed primary antagonist, a strangely similar device to that seen within Avengers: Endgame whereby time travel was utilised in order for individual characters to revisit iconic sequences in an almost victory-lap appraisal of the events which have come before it. Whilst this most definitely worked within Endgame thanks to a buildup of characterisation over twenty films, the same cannot be said for Chapter Two, as the individual set pieces soon become incredibly repetitive, resulting in a sense of unease not caused by horror but by a willingness for the narrative to actually get on with it, particularly when most of the scenes do seem direct re-treads of those seen within the first film, but even with that in mind, certain set pieces do evoke a chilling sense of knowingly ridiculous, overblown horror, particularly one scene lifted straight from the novel in which Jessica Chastain’s (Zero Dark Thirty) Beverly Marsh takes a haunting trip back to her childhood home address.

With the original King novel itself suffering from a sense that certain aspects within the story go so out there in terms of the sublime ridiculousness that to transfer them onto the big screen would be nigh-on impossible, the first part of Muschietti’s vision did well to bend particular set pieces in order to cater to a more mainstream audience with alarming success, and as Chapter Two finally arrives at its’ final act, all memories of the cringey, low budget depiction of Pennywise’s true form from the 1990 television miniseries are completely expelled thanks to a final confrontation which is probably the best big screen depiction of the source material as you possibly could get. As per the overall sensibility of the film, the final act manages to blend supernatural horror elements with laugh out loud moments of comedy, where although not every pun manages to quite stick the landing, carries on the coming-of-age feel which the first chapter clearly evoked so well, as we see the Losers continue the charming character conversations and witty banter shared all the way through the first film and now almost effortlessly once again as they reunite as adults. With Chastain, James McAvoy (Dark Phoenix) and Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) the clear standout performers, with Chastain particularly being well and truly put through the wringer thanks to THAT bathroom scene alone which evoked the look of Shauna Macdonald in The Descent, and a sheer fondness for the central characters, Chapter Two works excellently as a two hour horror adventure, but thanks to an unholy decision to add on an extra hour just for the memories, Muschietti’s approach to King’s novel is undoubtedly the best adaptation fans could have hoped for thanks to characters and a Pennywise for the ages, but as a standalone picture by itself, Chapter Two is baggy, but is still very, very good.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Informer

“The General Is One Of The Major Importers Of Fentanyl. We’re Going After Him…”

If ever there was a movie which had me sold on the trailer alone, The Informer is exactly that. Presented as a prison crime thriller produced by the gritty minds behind the superb one-two of Denis Villeneuve’s, Sicario, and the action series of the decade, John Wick, The Informer, at least on a production level, definitely had a lot going for it heading in. Helmed by Italian filmmaker, Andrea Di Stefano, an actor turned director responsible so far for the little seen, Escobar: Paradise Lost, starring Benicio Del Toro, and based upon the 2009 novel, Three Seconds, from the Swedish crime-writing team of Anders Roslund and Borg Hellström, The Informer is an English speaking adaptation which sees Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad, Altered Carbon) as Pete Koslow, a former decorated war veteran turned criminal who escapes the confines of prison after making a deal with Rosamund Pike’s (Gone Girl) FBI Handler as part of a complicated plot to bring down the renowned Polish drug baron known as “The General”.

With a tonal sensibility which includes as many laughs as a night time funeral, The Informer presents itself upon the darker range of the thriller genre, harbouring a rather depressing nihilistic viewpoint pretty much throughout in a similar vein to the likes of Sicario, albeit a movie without the technical nuance or strange, ambiguous mystery which made the Villeneuve original so damn good. Instead, the central plot involving Koslow, his family and his role within the war between the cops and the drug dealers is too cliched and tacky to come across as anything other than mechanical, resulting in a rather aggravating sense of patting myself on the back when particular plot twists and discoveries brought themselves to the forefront of the plot without any real sense of shock or enjoyment as the entire audience could see such developments walking into the movie. Whilst Kinnaman is his usually reliable self as he plays the “wounded soldier” role which his recent past performances have all seemed to have based upon, the muddled and shallow plot doesn’t allow for anyone else to particularly shine, with the likes of Pike and Clive Owen resorting to bit-part players within a plot that really could have done with a bit more umph, and whilst expectations may have been unjustifiably high heading in, The Informer is well made but boy is it bland.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

“Some People Believe If We Repeat Stories Often Enough They Become Real. They Make Us Who We Are. That Can Be Scary…”

Based upon the collection of short stories of the same name first published in 1981 and abstracted from the mind of American author, Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the long-awaited big screen adaptation of Schwartz’s tales after first being picked up for production by CBS Films in 2013. Produced by horror and fantasy aficionado, Guillermo Del Toro, a filmmaker fresh after his Academy Award win for the strange if impressive, The Shape of Water, and the man first tipped to direct, the mantle instead falls to Norwegian filmmaker, Andre Øvredal, whose previous work on the likes of Trollhunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe results in a slight step-up into the cinematic big time with an extensive wide release. Part Goosebumps inspired mystery, part portmanteau in the ilk of recent excellent examples such as V/H/S and its’ impressive sequel, Scary Stories is a very familiar and well-worn ghost train of a ride, a well designed genre flick which takes very interesting ideas and creature concepts and produces them in a strangely lifeless fashion, a particularly irritating outcome considering both the talent and the gothic sensibility which for a horror fan such as myself, is always great fun to see on the big screen.

With recent years seeing the “revival” of coming-of-age genre fiction being embraced by people across the globe, whether it be on television thanks to the success of Stranger Things or on the big screen with the likes of It and its’ upcoming sequel, it’s fair to say that Scary Stories works around an incredibly recognisable narrative structure, one which sees our central teen heroes, led by the rather impressive Zoe Colletti, attempt to tackle the forces of darkness after venturing into a particularly creepy household and stumbling across a mysterious book which continues to write stories by itself, tales of which soon spring to life and place the younglings at the clutches of a murderous spectre hell bent on revenge. With the movie then churning out set piece after set piece as it revels in the sight of throwing monster after monster at the audience in a similar fashion to Cabin in the Woods, it is clearly the individual acts which make the film rather entertaining, with fundamentally nightmarish ghouls designed within an inch of their life to scare the absolute pants off you the best aspect of the drama. Where the movie ultimately falls down is the rather dire central mystery itself and a sense that for a fifteen rated movie, it really isn’t that overly threatening or scary, resulting in a picture that is too young for adults and too adult for the young and with such a crushing conflict at the heart of it, Scary Stories is neither a great movie or a guaranteed box office smash, two factors which means it will come and go like the snarly creeps at the heart of its’ tale.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Angel Has Fallen

“Mike Banning, You’re Being Charged For The Attempted Murder Of The President Of The United States…”

Declaring himself with a beaming smile as the world’s worst actor come the conclusion of 2016, a year in which film fans across the world were “treated” to the double delight of both Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen, two films which will forever remain as prime examples of cinematic garbage at its’ most wretched and unbearable, the Scottish cash-grab that is Gerard Butler once again returns to the big screen with yet another entry into the “Has Fallen” film series with Angel Has Fallen, an equally poor attempt at furthering the saga of Butler’s super secret agent, Mike Banning, as we see the raggedy Bruce Willis wannabee framed for the attempted assassination of Morgan Freeman’s (The Dark Knight) peace-loving President of the United States, even after saving the world twice and being declared as a national hero. Plot holes aside, Angel Has Fallen sees Snitch director, Ric Roman Waugh, being handed the reigns for a movie which bears all the worst attributes you would expect from a recent Gerard Butler vehicle, albeit Den of Thieves which was actually very good, as it incinerates, massacres, stabs and blows its’ way through a rather generic action plot with enough brute force to leave you with quite a nasty, elongated headache. We soldier on…

With London Has Fallen not only being a genuinely terrible excuse for a big-screen action movie as it succumbed to a jaw-dropping level of xenophobia and racism I had previously not overly noticed from a blockbuster shoot-a-thon, it does comes as a warm relief to report that Angel Has Fallen stays well clear from such levels of bad taste and instead holds out more so for the utter ridiculous. With the movie executives suddenly realising that Butler himself is no longer the fresh runner bean he may have been in the past, Angel Has Fallen does sort of start in semi-interesting fashion as we come face to face with the inevitable movie baddy in the first ten minutes alongside a focus on Banning himself, whose years of war and murder seem to have finally taken a toll on both his physical and mental capacity. As soon as the explosions occur however, all level of depth is completely dropped in favour of poorly CGI’d destruction, endless, pointless cannon fodder death and a central Taken meets Shooter plot line which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever but still ends in exactly the same way you would expect from a film attempting to reach as wide an audience as possible. Add into the mix a strange cameo role from Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded) and a laughably bad Nick Nolte (Warrior) and Angel Has Fallen is exactly the type of movie you suckers made possible by paying to see London Has Fallen, albeit one which actually does manage to improve on its’ predecessor ever so slightly.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Good Boys

 “Tonight Is Our First Middle School Party. There’s Going To Be Girls There. You Know What That Means..?”

With 2019 undoubtedly the year where the coming of age movie has become the weekly norm, this week sees the release of Good Boys, an American teen comedy brought to the big screen by both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg through their production company, Point Grey Pictures, a film studio responsible most recently for the rather excellent, The Disaster Artist, and the mildly entertaining, Long Shot, from earlier on this year. Directed by Ukrainian-born filmmaker, Gene Stupnitsky, in his big-screen debut, Good Boys sees Stupnitsky team up with long-term writing collaborator, Lee Eisenberg, after their extensive work together on the American, and much much better, version of The Office, for a movie which takes the very well-worn and cliched tale of youth and young manhood and spices it up with a impressively hilarious comedic script which results in one of the most surprising and rewarding American comedies in recent history.

Wholly focusing on the trials and tribulations of the self-proclaimed “bean bag boys”, Good Boys sees Brady Noon, Keith L. Williams and the ever improving, Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) as Thor, Lucas and Max respectively, three awkward inbetweeners who upon taking the big step from fifth to sixth grade, are invited to a house party ran by their school’s most popular kid, one who promises the chance for our leading lads to partake in the horrifying encounter they all aren’t prepared for; kissing a girl. As per the difficulty when it comes to this type of story, the tale of teens angst and rife anti-social behaviour isn’t exactly anything original, with the likes of Booksmart this year alone offering a very similar plot, if being a tad more adult and certainly better made on an aesthetic level, but where Good Boys falls down on a basis of freshness and a slight cheap sensibility, it more than makes up for in terms of comedic output, with the razor sharp script offering numerous hilarious set piece, one of which actually made me giggle so much, tears began streaming from my eyes, an effect of which I haven’t experienced from an American comedy in donkeys, and when a comedy works its’ magic to the extent that bodily fluids extract themselves from your body, it’s fair to say that such a movie does its’ job pretty damn well.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Pain and Glory

“If You Don’t Write Or Film, What Will You Do..?”

Written and directed by critically acclaimed Spanish filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar, a director responsible for the likes of Julietta and The Skin I Live In most recently, films which although may have made waves in Festival and critics circles, failed to ignite any sense of worldwide recognition, particularly to a lay audience who still seem baffled and alarmed at the thought of sitting through a film with subtitles, Pain and Glory comes to cinemas this week with a particularly enthusiastic expanded release across the U.K after making its’ debut at this year’s Cannes festival where the movie was selected for the Palme d’Or, albeit eventually losing out to Bong Joon-ho’s comedic thriller, Parasite. Reuniting once again with long-term collaborators, Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro and Penélope Cruz (Murder on the Orient Express), Almodóvar’s latest is a bittersweet, expertly acted tale of regret and redemption with a staggeringly good central performance from Banderas, and whilst there is indeed much to admire about Almodóvar latest, and arguably most personal, work to date, Pain and Glory does undoubtedly suffer heavily from an annoyingly jumbled narrative and a baffling, almost cheap looking aesthetic which makes the film on a visual level seem amateurishly televisual.

With a narrative structure which comes fairly close to exhibiting the storyline traits of a portmanteau movie, Pain and Glory focuses primarily on Banderas’ Salvador Mallo, a retired, hermit-esque filmmaker who upon discovering that one of his early critically acclaimed movies has become the subject of a hotly anticipated restoration, begins to contemplate the years which have preceded him, leading up to the present day where numerous medical issues are preventing him from making the most of his talent and gifts. With Mallo’s story jumping from time period to time period, the flashbacks focusing on his childhood allow the movie to introduce Penélope Cruz as his overbearing and incredibly Spanish mother figure, one who sees the brightness at the heart of her son’s abilities but is reluctant to allow him to discover his own path as a young Mallo soon becomes obsessed with the escapist pastime of art, cinema and before he is ready for it, the notion of true love. Whilst the editing of this narrative journey fails to be as elegant and streamlined as I would have wanted, the power of the primary performers at the heart of the tale does push aside such issues for a time, but with clear pacing issues and not enough comedic quips to fully engage my brain for the entire runtime, Pain and Glory is a moderately successful vehicle for a absolutely stupendous central performance form Banderas and a movie with such a brilliant final shot that I almost felt the need to stand up and clap.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

“In This Town, It Can All Change, Like That…”

After a summer of truly awful summer blockbusters, with only the likes of Midsommar and reissues of Jaws, The Matrix and Apocalypse Now the very few cinematic releases to keep my sanity intact and preventing me from ending my relationship with film forevermore, thank the baby jesus for the return of Quentin Tarantino, one of the select few of talented filmmakers currently working in the world of film who is always guaranteed to expel greatness upon the big screen, with the critically acclaimed American returning to cinemas for the first time since 2016’s excellent, The Hateful Eight, with the hotly anticipated and star-studded, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Hyped with a typically tantalising word of mouth after its’ debut at this year’s Cannes Festival, Hollywood sees Tarantino once again at the top of his filmmaking craft, with his so-called “ninth” picture (with the big man himself seeing both chapters of Kill Bill as a single entity) his most mature work since Jackie Brown all the way back in 1997, and whilst Hollywood by no means manages to surpass Pulp Fictiona film which remains to this day Tarantino’s undisputed magnum opus, Tarantino’s latest is the closest the American has come in ages to creating a full-blown masterpiece.

As per the norm when it comes to the back catalogue of Tarantino, Hollywood sees the American have complete and utter control over a release which is seen as his most “personal” to date, a two hour, forty minute drama which essentially follows three separate plot threads for the majority of the runtime, all of which then convene for a final, and highly memorable, concluding act which for those with prior knowledge of the historical basis in which the film is based, is incredibly satisfying in its’ revisionist way of distorting true events. Of the three threads, all of which set in the peace-loving, hippie ear of 1969, the primary basis of the plot follows Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Brad Pitt (The Big Short) as Rick Dalton, a fading and emotionally crippled actor whose success on the small screen hasn’t exactly paid dividends upon the big screen, and Cliff Booth, a war-hero turned stuntman with a particularly ambiguous past, two long-standing partners in the titular land of Hollywood whose careers seem to be dwindling into non-existence. Second to the primary narrative is Margot Robbie’s (The Wolf of Wall Street) depiction of Sharon Tate, the beautifully angelic figure of tragedy whose involvement with the Manson Family, the subject of the film’s third and final plot thread, supposedly sparked such a dramatic shift in the air of tinseltown that the landscape was changed forevermore, and with Tarantino expertly managing to mould each segment together with a surprisingly low-lew approach at times, the more you take into Hollywood in terms of knowledge about Manson and the events at Cielo Drive on that eventful night, the more you will undoubtedly take from it, particularly on an emotional level, something of which Tarantino’s movies more than most tend to lack.

With such a contained yet sprawling narrative, Hollywood is clearly the closest Tarantino has come to recreating the storyline structure of Pulp Fiction since its’ release in 1994, and whilst I have seen some reviews which have criticised the movie’s storyline as excessive and over-indulgent, the entire point of the movie is to focus on a forgotten era in cinema of which Tarantino is absolutely fascinated with, and with a large majority of the runtime content with following our leading characters as they drive around the sunny, silky streets of a land filled with stars and dreamers, I for one was absolutely transfixed with the direction of the narrative from start to finish and bulked at how quick two hours just seemed to glide by without any issues whatsoever. Of course with such an eye-watering cast, the performances are all typically marvelous, with Pitt slightly outperforming his partner in crime and a standout cameo from Dakota Fanning (Ocean’s 8) topping a wholly memorable acting collaboration, but the real winner here is of course Tarantino himself as he directs some of his best set pieces to date, particularly one staggeringly tense extended sequence in which Pitt’s Booth is invited to the home of the Manson Family at Spahn’s Movie Ranch. As the movie reaches its’ climax, Tarantino carefully takes his time as he delicately pulls back the curtain on his perspective of events on the night of August 8th 1969, and as white-knuckle tension goes, the last twenty minutes of the movie are as gripping as anything I’ve ever seen, capping off what is clearly the best original movie of the year so far and a welcome return for Tarantino who provides his best work in years. Stupendous filmmaking.

Overall Score: 9/10

Film Review: Crawl

“Grab Your Families, Your Loved Ones, And Get Out. We Won’t Be Able To Come For You…”

With a related trailer which highlights Sam Raimi as a “producer” on Evil Dead and Alexandre Aja as “director” of The Hills Have Eyes, it’s fair to say that whilst such claims from the spin merchants of Crawl are indeed factually accurate, it also reinstates how fundamentally messed up the genre of horror has become thanks to the way in which every classic horror movie has been chopped up and churned out thanks to the wonderful notion of remakes and spin-offs in recent years. With Raimi of course being the mastermind and director of the original, and better, The Evil Dead in 1981and producer on the 2013 Fede Álvarez directed remake, a film of which I can admit to actually enjoying, to say that Aja is best known for his work on the rehash of The Hills Have Eyes in 2006 is generally rather aggravating, when the mighty Wes Craven, director of the 1977 grindhouse original classic, seems to be the subject of a Stalinesque mind-wipe towards younger audiences who may not even be aware of Craven or his impact on the genre of horror. Moan aside, Aja and Raimi this week team up for a rather familiar B-movie creature-feature in the form of Crawl, an overly generic work of nonsense which in some ways is quite enjoyable due to the sheer fact that it’s the type of movie which seems to be released at least thirty years too late.

With a very basic, genre-literate set-up, Crawl sees Kaya Scodelario (Extremely Wicked…) as Haley, a swimming obsessed student athlete who stupidly returns to her hometown in the heart of Florida in order to check on the welfare of her father after a Category five hurricane begins to make its’ way towards the mainland. Upon arriving at her deserted childhood home, Haley finds father Dave, as played by Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan), unconscious within the crawl space of their home for no immediate apparent reason until soon discovering the amidst decaying childhood homes, a ridiculously overblown natural threat and unnecessary daddy issues, ravenous alligators have decided to take over the house and are happy to eat anything that gets in their way. With Aja beginning his career with the enjoyably nonsensical, Switchblade Romance, and making his way into Hollywood with unnecessary remakes, Crawl does seem like an attempt to appease as mass an audience as possible, and whilst the exploitation violence within the movie is highly enjoyable in places, the screenplay isn’t exactly one to be desired as it attempts to blend into the carnage meaningless narrative tangents such as reserved family issues without any real point to it whatsoever. When it comes to a film such as Crawl, the violence and the silliness should always be the primary focus and be capped off within a harmless eighty minutes, but with Aja’s latest so predictable and lifeless, the lack of threat and lack of bite, pun intended, means Crawl is a glorified bargain bucket B-movie which just happens to be allowed on the big screen for no real apparent reason whatsoever.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Animals

“Sooner Or Later The Party Has To End…”

Less of a coming of age drama and more like a raging alcohol and drug fuelled stupor, South Australian director, Sophie Hyde, brings to life Emma Jane Unsworth’s 2014 novel of the same name in the form of Animals, an internationally produced “buddy” movie which sees Holliday Grainger (My Cousin Rachel) and Alia Shawkat (Green Room) as Laura and Tyler, two close friends hitting the tender age of their mid-30’s who spend their time frolicking, excessively drinking and partaking in hard drugs in the name of staying young, keeping fresh and shying away from the responsibilities of the “adult” world. Screened to the public at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and departing with a overly positive buzz, Hyde’s movie is a refreshingly low-key if wildly spirited take on the trials and tribulations of adulthood, one which embraces many of the plot devices and genre conventions evident in previous and better works of a similar ilk, but too a film which works off the strengths of its’ leading characters as we follow them through a particular path which audiences of similar age range will undoubtedly understand and sheepishly relate to.

With 2019 seemingly being the year where the coming of age movie has re-emerged into the cinematic spotlight, Animals follows most closely to the likes of Booksmart in some ways, a film which takes the American Graffiti route of exploring one last childhood hurrah before venturing into the world of growing up, and whilst of course the age ranges of our particular characters in each film differ by a decade or so, the central narrative of Hyde’s movie focuses on two friends seemingly reluctant to take that next step into becoming what they fear most; serious adults. With Grainger’s Laura then becoming the first to attempt to bridge the gap between child and adult as she falls in love with Fra Free’s (Les Misérables) mopey, piano loving straighthead, tensions soon build up between the pair, with each seemingly beginning to resent each other as they slowly drift apart as Laura falls more into the trap of modern-day normalisation involving marriage and family, whilst Tyler continues her life of unemployment, heavy drinking and endless partying. With the film relying on the central double act to basically hold the film together, the performances of both Grainger and Shawkat are good enough to keep you more than interested, aided nicely by some sharp comedic dialogue and snappy sarcastic quips, and whilst Hyde’s movie will come and go without leaving much of a lasting impression, Animals is an enjoyable, if slightly wandering, tale of friendship and the ability to drink many, many bottles of white wine.

Overall Score: 6/10