The Human Gaze: Our Review of ‘The Animal Kingdom’ (2023)

Posted in Theatrical by - March 14, 2024
The Human Gaze: Our Review of ‘The Animal Kingdom’ (2023)

All Western countries are all alike, etc., or maybe not, as Thomas Cailley’s The Animal Kingdom is showing. During one of its scenes, Victor, a teenager, has to defend his sport of sword fighting to his friends. This sport is unique in Gascony, a region in the south of France, home to teenagers and adults. One of those teens is Victor’s friend Emile (Paul Kircher), the new kid in town who’s undergoing changes. He is experiencing the symptoms of a new pandemic that turns humans to animals and is hiding it. As these things go, his new group of friends are taking sides, either for or against mutants. The reason he’s in Gascony in the first place is because of his father Francois. Francois is looking for his wife who became a mutant and has no idea that Emile is also turning into one.

Emile is the protagonist here. As I wrote above, he has a circle of friends which include neuroatypical Nina (Billie Blain). Emile gravitates towards Nina because her diagnosis makes her able to relate to things that he is hiding. And yes, their friendship indicates what being a mutant is a metaphor for, even if filmic metaphors in general are elastic. But what grounds the film are the nuanced adult characters that he has connections with. The main adult in The Animal Kingdom is Francois, a mournful character that Romain Duris breathes life into. The central image here is a mutant walking to the forest, and that means nothing without Francois’s gaze. The film also has him befriending a Gendarmerie officer (Adele Exarchopoulos) who reluctantly tolerates everyone’s intolerance. Adding some levity to the film is Fix (Tom Mercier), a mutant who wants to use his wings.

Another aspect that makes The Animal Kingdom delightful is its cinematography and its smooth transitions between its ‘worlds’. The mutants find a refuge in the forests in Gascony that the film depicts through these jewel tones. The forests feel magical at night, as people like Francois get glimpses of mutants like his wife. On the other hand, the film depicts the human world with warmth, but it’s a world where betrayal  abounds. Of course, one of Emile’s friends figures out that the latter is a mutant at a mediaeval festival. Emile and his allies have no choice  but to fight in an exhilarating scene between the two groups. The stakes are high, and the film isn’t afraid to make some heads roll if it must. But the casualties, mostly on the mutant side, takes viewers to the reality of what happens to oppressed groups.

Watch The Animal Kingdom in select Canadian theatres.


This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');