Dominik Moll’s “Only the Animals” is one of those films that is best experienced knowing as little of it as possible. Of course, this creates a challenge for whoever is responsible for writing about it—how to substantially discuss it without spoiling some of the surprises along the way. To that end, I’ll try to be as brief and vague about any plot details as I can. But my advice is if you’re interested in seeing the film (Spoiler Alert: you should), you should probably put this review aside for a while, watch the film for yourself, and then come back later to find out how brilliant and precise my analysis has been. Trust me—I don’t mind.
Largely, though not entirely, in rural French mountain villages, the film begins with the disappearance of Evelyne Ducat (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), a well-known Parisian woman who has been living in her stylish winter vacation home. His car was found abandoned on the side of the road but other than that, no trace of it could be found anywhere. When television broadcasts an update on the case, a local cop Cedric (Bastien Bouillion) interviews several locals in hopes of finding something that will lead to Evelyne’s discovery, or at least some rational explanation for her seemingly missing. thin air. Needless to say, the rest of the film shows how wrong that assumption is.
There is, as mentioned, Alice, who is unhappy married and currently having an affair with one of her clients, Joseph (Damien Bonnard), a reclusive farmer still recovering from the recent death of his beloved mother and who can’t help but give off a reminiscent vibe. to a very famous motel owner. There’s Alice’s sad husband, Michel (Denis Menochet), who seems to know all about her 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 visit her new boyfriend, and you can probably guess how well it turned out. Lastly, there’s Armand (Guy Roger “Bibisse” N’Drin), a young man living in Ivory Coast who has become a phone swindler in order to make a quick buck and hopefully win back his old girlfriend (Marie Victoire Amie), who has been hanging out with a rich and mysterious old man.
Since the film is based on the strange disappearance of a woman and is mostly set in a cold setting, you may find yourself making mental comparisons between “Only the Animals” and the Coen brothers classic “Fargo.” However, Moll and co-writer Gilles Marchand, working from a novel by Colin Niel, had something a little more ambitious in mind. Instead of linking the story in a linear fashion, they instead rely on an elaborate flashback structure broken into five parts — each focusing on one of the characters above — which allows us to gradually discover the previously unexpected connections between everyone and the others. is lost. woman. The effect is less “Fargo” and more akin to “Shortcut”” or “Magnolia,” though I find myself recalling Michael Haneke’s secretly evil “Cache” too.
I sometimes get annoyed with movies that use complex jigsaw puzzle-style structures to tell their stories, but that’s not the case here. While there’s a certain pleasure in watching the story take shape before our eyes, the characters and shows are just as engaging as the structure. All of the key people in the story are vaguely dissatisfied with their lives and seek to find some kind of happiness in a way that ends up having strange repercussions, both for themselves and for others in their orbit. The show is also quite strong, with the most interesting coming from Bruni-Tedeschi as the missing woman and Tereskiewicz, who is excellent as the lovelorn waitress who is by far the most honest of all, and who is still stuck. in a web of lies.
I’m not entirely convinced, at least based on one look, that all the scenario changes add up eventually, and some viewers may be a little frustrated with how often it relies on sheer coincidence to keep things going. (The final turn that comes in the closing moments is horrific.) But, by and large, “Only the Animals” is an effectively convincing slow-burn thriller that marks the return of Moll, who first made a splash with the highly entertaining thriller. “With Friends Like Harry.” Needless to say, this is the kind of film you have to watch to make sense, but those who put in the effort will be rewarded.