Six people desperate for happiness end up on collision course

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Jan. 13, 2022

Only the Animals
Broadway Theatre
Opens Jan. 14
3.5 out of 5

Now that superhero movies have all but exiled mid-range Hollywood thrillers to streaming services, one can always look abroad to find some suspense in your movie diet.

A French production directed by Dominick Moll, Only the Animals is a whodunnit fuelled by characters incapable of establishing meaningful connections with others. And their combined efforts to overcome their loneliness end up playing a part in the central murder.

The film opens with an abandoned car on a country road and a missing, presumed dead, woman Evelyne Ducat (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). From there, via flashbacks and flashforwards, we meet the five people who may have been involved in her demise.

One is a morose farmer with a taste for online encounters. Then there’s his unhappy wife who’s carrying on an affair of her own; her lover, an emotionally stunted rancher; a waitress who had a one-night-stand with the victim; and, kilometres away, a young Ivorian man desperate to make money to keep his baby mama happy. His connection to the sad French people is as shocking as it is depressing.

Only the Animals unfolds like a macabre game of Clue, one twist after another, all rather creepy. The film revels in the idea of destiny and the notion you design your own downfall. The film is impeccably structured: by the time the culprit’s identity is revealed, one is more invested in the characters’ fate than the mystery itself.

Probably because of the story arc (and to a lesser degree, the wintery setup), it’s impossible to warm up to the characters and their plight. But if you don’t mind spending two hours with this unlikeable bunch, you’re guaranteed a good time.