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The Animal Kingdom

by Brandon Thomas

The relationship between Francois (Roman Duris) and his son Emile (Paul Kircher) isn’t just strained, it’s virtually broken. A mutation has swept the planet causing some people to transform into human-animal hybrids and Emile’s mother sits in a hospital as one of those affected. As Francois obsesses over treatment for his wife, he fails to notice the significant transformations occurring in his own son.

The Animal Kingdom surprises from the start with a focus squarely on the characters and their relationships, not the genre elements. What easily could have been typical genre fodder (and there’s nothing wrong with that from time to time) instead grapples with complex emotions and real-world metaphors. While the elements surrounding the mutations are visually impressive and interesting, Francois and Emile’s relationship anchors the film.

Speaking of the visuals, the make-up and added CG effects on the mutated are outstanding. The emphasis is placed more on the practical work, but the almost seamless blending of the two styles makes for an incredible final product. Not only do the character designs have an intriguing originality to them, but they also allow the characters’ humanity to bleed through. It’s an approach to visual effects that is unfortunately not the norm for these types of films. 

The Animal Kingdom’s commentary on real-world events is presented front and center, but not in an overly heavy-handed way.

Writer/Director Thomas Cailley and co-writer Pauline Munier have crafted a story that works on an emotional and visceral level, but also as a broader comment on newer diseases and the fear that it brings to the surface. It never feels like Cailley is preaching to the audience even when the film’s point is hard to miss. 

Audiences looking for more emotional genre fare will be quite pleased with The Animal Kingdom and its emphasis on character.