The Animal kingdom

The Animal kingdom
Original title:Le règne animal
Director:Thomas Cailley
Running time:130 minutes
Release date:15 february 2024
In a world plagued by a wave of mutations that are gradually transforming some humans into animals, François does everything in his power to save his wife, who has been affected by this mysterious phenomenon. As the region becomes populated by creatures of a new kind, he embarks Emile, their 16-year-old son, on a quest that will change their lives forever.

Mulder's Review

To Adèle Exarchopoulos

Thomas Cailley's Animal Kingdom is an extraordinary cinematic triumph, harmoniously blending the surreal with the profoundly human. The film presents a fascinating tale of identity, transformation and the profound impact of connection. In a perplexing mutant world where humans transform into various animal species, Thomas Cailley creates a visually captivating and emotionally resonant experience that challenges convention.

At the heart of the film's narrative is the complex exploration of the father-son dynamic between François (Romain Duris) and Émile (Paul Kircher). Their journey is one of self-discovery and self-acceptance, reflecting the turmoil of society as humanity grapples with an inexplicable phenomenon. Kircher's portrayal of Émile is a revelation, as he embodies the adolescent's inner struggle with the impending transformation of his own body. His performance is utterly captivating, encompassing the full range of emotions associated with self-discovery and the unknown.

Romain Duris, as François, delivers a solid, emotionally charged performance, depicting the depths of a father's love and the limits he is willing to cross for his son. The chemistry between Romain Duris and Paul Kircher is palpable, and forms the basis of the film's emotional core. As Émile and François navigate their relationship amidst social chaos, their journey becomes a poignant reflection on universal themes such as growth, understanding and the enduring bond between generations.

Beyond its character-driven narrative, The Animal Kingdom excels in visual execution. The practical effects used to depict the gradual transformations of the human-animal hybrids are impressive. Thomas Cailley's meticulous attention to detail is evident throughout the film, immersing the audience in the complex process of these physical changes. This commitment to visual storytelling reinforces the film's immersive quality, allowing viewers to feel deep empathy for the characters' experiences.

The film's thematic depth goes beyond individual journeys. Animal Kingdom serves as a multi-layered allegory, addressing societal concerns such as fear of the unknown, the peril of alienation and the enduring strength of human bonds in the face of adversity. These multiple layers enrich the viewer's experience, prompting them to reflect on their own role in the complex interplay between identity, community and the natural world.

While the film's ambition is laudable, it sometimes results in narrative convolutions and fluctuations in pace. Some of the subplots introduced can seem underdeveloped, which slightly detracts from the overall cohesion. Nevertheless, these minor shortcomings are offset by the film's bold approach to a variety of themes, and its ability to provoke introspection long after the screen has faded.

In a landscape often saturated with narrative formulas, The Animal Kingdom stands out as a beacon of originality and creativity. Thomas Cailley's vision, combined with the actors' excellent performances, results in a cinematic experience that remains etched in the mind and stirs the emotions. As Émile's personal journey converges with the societal upheavals caused by mutation, the film poses profound questions about the essence of humanity, the limits of identity and the inherent yearning for connection.

The Animal Kingdom is a remarkable achievement that defies categorization, effortlessly blending genre elements with emotional depth. It is a testament to storytelling's ability to engage, challenge and inspire. By accompanying Émile and François on their transformative odyssey, the film reminds us that, like its characters, we are all an integral part of the complex tapestry of the animal kingdom. It encourages us to embrace our shared humanity and the intrinsic links that bind us to the world around us. At a time when cinema often privileges spectacle over substance, The Animal Kingdom is a striking example of genre cinema's ability to provoke thought, engage conversation and leave an indelible emotional mark. Thomas Cailley's exploration of humanity's metamorphosis is an extraordinary achievement, reaffirming that true cinematic enchantment emanates from the fusion of imagination and meaning.

The Animal Kingdom 
Directed by Thomas Cailley
Written by Thomas Cailley, Pauline Munier
Produced by Pierre Guyard
Starring Romain Duris, Paul Kircher, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Cinematography: David Cailley
Editing: Lilian Corbeille
Music: Andrea Laszlo De Simone
Production company: Nord-Ouest Films
Distributed by StudioCanal (France)
Release dates: May 17, 2023 (Cannes), October 4, 2023 (France), March 15 2024 (United States)
Running time: 130 minutes

Seen on September 5 2023 at Deauville international center

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