The French have a knack when it comes to stylish and sexy thrillers. There’s something about the Gallic temperament which provides for scintillating and electric cinema. Over the years we’ve been spoiled by a high standard of output. From such classics as Chabrol’s Le Boucher or Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques to modern greats like Canet’s Tell No One and Haneke’s Hidden. Dominik Moll’s new film, Only the Animals, is a clever taken on the murder mystery.
Alice (Laure Calamy) is a homecare nurse in an unhappy marriage with Michel (Denis Menochet), a farmer, living on a windswept mountainside in central France. She’s having an affair with the taciturn Joseph (Damien Bonnard), who is one of her clients. When a Parisian holidaymaker (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) goes missing, it unlocks a chain of events involving an obsessive waitress (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) and an African (Guy Roger N’drin) fraudster.
Only the Animals is a beautifully constructed thriller which tells the story of a murder from several viewpoints. As the action unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent just how clever Moll’s plotting and direction is. These are all unhappy people, living in situations they’re trying to escape, or at least ameliorate. This sense of aloneness is accentuated by the rural setting. The end is a bit much but it’s assuredly handled until that moment. Only the Animals is a fresh and thoughtful meditation on modern life.
Only the Animals screens again at London Film Festival on 9 & 10 October.