‘The Animal Kingdom’ Review — An Uneven, Yet Compelling Endearment

celluloid consommé
3 min readMar 27, 2024

If you were living in a world where people out of almost nowhere start to mutate into animals, could you accept the ramifications for human rights it presents? Thomas Cailley’s The Animal Kingdom asks exactly this, in a framework that adopts a set of genre tropes to ease his argument along despite it coming across as somewhat jagged.

The film follows father and son François and Émile (Romain Duris and Paul Kircher, respectively) as they come to different terms with their mother and wife Lana (Florence Deretz) undergoing a transformation and beginning to lose her speech and higher functions. Émile begins an estrangement from her in a desperate attempt to disassociate from her, as her declining condition is all he sees. But his father maintains the love he has for Lana and the rift that exists between father and son challenges their intimate relationship made more intense with the exclusion of a present mother.

Romain Duris and Paul Kircher in THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

This rift undergoes a transformation as Émile discovers something inconvenient about himself, emerging almost comically after connecting with a girl in a new school after moving for his father’s culinary work. The world has started to respond unfavorably to the growing phenomenon of people essentially shifting into animals, governments scooping up those who are affected to treat and study them like test subjects in labs. It’s hard to not think about those who identify as trans in our world through the film’s taken approach.

Animal Kingdom makes an important distinction here, though, and it’s that those who undergo this transformation were always meant to because it’s a part of them. It’s an inarguable point that when one transitions the signs have always been there, they may just not have been noticed at the time. But they become blazing flames in the rearview, checkpoints towards a realization that can strengthen the feeling of true identity. At first, the distinction can feel cheaply reductive, and based on intent can be. But in the reading of where Émile ends up in his experiences, it doesn’t feel as simple as just that. It’s also important how others with power react to the advent of your existence, however clumsy the message is laid across. In fact, its jagged nature may become an endearing quality to some, but not necessarily so for others.

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Romain Duris in THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

This transformation is often scary, not only because of a body whose rules shift and change while you’re still in it but because of how others see these shifts and let impulsive emotions govern how they interact with you. In life, transformations don’t happen at the flick of a switch, neither does it here in Animal Kingdom.

Despite the way the film becomes mildly unfocused in the pieces it sets up it still hits its target. Perhaps not as confident or deft in connecting the writing of the film to its thematic material but Duris and Kircher as father and son immerse you into an unconditional love that feels anything but trite.

The uneven and rough-edged approach feels a tad out of place during the course of the film but in letting it wash over you, look back on the paths François and Émile took. You may find a few choice beacons that could light your own way when returning your gaze, looking forward.

The Animal Kingdom is currently playing in select theaters and is available on VOD courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Thank you for reading!
This article was originally published March 23rd, 2024 on Geek Vibes Nation.

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