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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
For anyone who has ever woken up with a hangover from hell and a mouth like the bottom of a budgie's cage, Animals will ring some familiar, and possibly discomfiting, bells. It follows two party girls, Laura and Tyler, as they lurch from one glass to another in a city (Dublin) famous for the furnishing of hangovers.
Animals is not so much a comedy about the joys of getting out of it as a drama about the choices everyone has to make as they get older about when, if and how they will re- join the human flow. In that context, the lead character makes the theme explicit by quoting W B Yeats's ‘The Choice’: “The intellect of man is forced to choose / Perfection of the life, or of the work / And if it take the second must refuse / A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.”
Laura only mentions the first two lines, but we already know she is struggling. At 32 she has been through a decade of hard partying with her best friend, expatriate American Tyler. Laura has been working on a novel for 10 years, with 10 pages to show for it. Tyler, clearly in love with her, enables her to avoid doing the actual work of writing with a hundred excuses - notably the old one about writing being about "inspiration".
As Laura realises that she must get to work, Tyler refills their glasses. When Laura falls for an intense, dark-haired classical musician called Jim, Tyler unleashes a devious campaign to disrupt the romance. Her whole world is threatened. Hyde keeps us close to these two women, remaining clear-eyed even as she celebrates their bond and their sense of freedom. Laura and Tyler are so bound to each other that not taking a drink feels like a betrayal. Each is starkly aware of their dilemma. It's a difficult film to sustain because there's nothing immediately attractive about seeing two beautiful young things pissing their lives away. Hyde overcomes this by offering up two intense characters that grab and hold as they stumble towards self-awareness.