Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by SPN Editor
“The Animal Kingdom” is a cinematic marvel, brimming with emotion, aesthetics, and themes of family. It takes you by surprise and captivates you with its raw honesty, profound intelligence, and keen insights.
Undoubtedly, it stands as one of this year’s finest cinematic offerings. The film initially premiered at Cannes earlier this year and subsequently had its US debut at Fantastic Fest 2023. While it is set to release in France this October, there is still no official word on a US release date.
Director and co-writer Thomas Cailley skillfully unfolds this narrative primarily in natural settings, amidst wooded marshlands that afford his mutated characters ample space to explore their newfound abilities, both metaphorically and literally.
Without revealing too much, it’s safe to say that there is more than just a handful of these unique beings in the film. The makeup and character designs are nothing short of exceptional, deserving of accolades.
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At times, you might find yourself wanting to pause the film just to marvel at the intricate and sometimes haunting amalgamations of human and animal traits, ranging from octopus-like tentacles to chameleon-like adaptability, and even the grace of a praying mantis or the cunning of a snake.
The film’s musical score, composed by Andrea Laszlo De Simone and Sebastien Pan, elevates the entire cinematic experience. It provides the characters with a melody that is both enchanting and memorable, rising and falling in perfect harmony with the character’s emotional journey.
This musical backdrop is particularly poignant during the more fantastical scenes, as we witness these creatures wholeheartedly embrace their newfound animalistic powers.
However, beyond its visual and auditory splendor, “The Animal Kingdom” derives its true strength from the relationship between François and Émile. François grapples with the heart-wrenching absence of his wife, while Émile gradually comes to terms with his own transformation. When these individual threads begin to intertwine, the result is nothing short of magical.
“The Animal Kingdom” is not your run-of-the-mill movie. It’s a cinematic masterpiece, a fantastical journey that delves into a familiar yet enthralling premise with remarkable nuance. While the expected elements are present, they serve as a backdrop to the central story—the way a single-family copes with an unprecedented global transformation. The outcome is a profoundly emotional, uplifting, and exquisitely crafted film that will linger in your heart long after you’ve left the cinema.
François (portrayed by Romain Duris) and Émile (played by Paul Kircher) are a father and son duo who, as revealed in the film’s poignant prologue, are grappling with the transformation of their wife and mother, Lana, into an animal-like being. This inexplicable phenomenon is occurring worldwide, seemingly at random.
However, in this particular instance, it has strained the relationship between father and son. In an attempt to adapt to their new reality, François and Émile decide to relocate to a quaint village in the south of France, closer to Lana’s new habitat.
Regrettably, Lana never arrives at her destination. A transport carrying several of these mutated individuals crashes, and locating them becomes a formidable challenge for the authorities.
As François and Émile endeavor to assimilate into their new surroundings, they are haunted by thoughts of Lana’s fate. François commences a new job, while Émile embarks on a new academic journey.
Through their experiences, we gain insight into how different segments of society are coping with these extraordinary events. Some, particularly the students at Émile’s school, display acceptance and empathy towards this evolution of humanity. Conversely, many adults in François’s workplace derogatorily refer to them as “critters” and harbor negative sentiments.
The exploration of prejudice and discrimination is an essential but subtly integrated facet of the narrative, offering parallels to the real-world issues of race, gender, and religion.
However, this theme remains in the background, allowing the core narrative of a family navigating unprecedented circumstances to take center stage. The narrative evolves to reveal the profound impact of shared trauma, the gradual healing between François and Émile, and the unforeseen twist that forces Émile to confront his own transformation.
Paul Kircher, in the role of Émile, delivers a remarkable performance, despite being a relative newcomer to acting. He seamlessly embodies his character, making us empathize with Émile’s struggles as a regular adolescent dealing with parental issues, and then rooting for him even more as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Kircher’s performance is further enhanced by exceptional makeup and costume work, as well as his subtle physical transformation throughout the film. It’s a performance that truly brings the character to life on the screen.
Signpost Moview Reviewers is proud to give Animal Kingdom 4 out of 5 stars.