Ever since Animals hit Picturehouse screens during Sundance Festival earlier this year, I suspected that this might be the film for me. Incidentally, this is something that I have suspected of about one film per month for most of my 28 years on earth, but my hope never dies.
This time, it’s 30-ish year old party girls take on Dublin in a rush of debauched nights and sequins and white wine, while one of them struggles, in a slightly half arsed way, to become a writer. You see it right? The film for me.
So much the film for me, in fact, that I had an uneasy feeling on the day I was going to see it that I probably shouldn’t go on my own since I didn’t want to have to relate too hard and begin to question all of my life choices. Alas, I took myself off to the Hackney Picturehouse where luckily there were several other solo watchers. Let’s all go down together!
Tyler (Alia Shawkat) and Laura ( Holliday Grainger) are best friends and flatmates, living in a gorgeous huge townhouse in Dublin and being what I would either describe as ‘Good Time Girls’ or ‘Trash People’. Laura is striving to write a novel but after 10 years has still produced only 10 pages. The film follows the trajectory of their friendship once Laura meets Jim, a faintly irritating piano player whom she becomes enamoured with.
The question hanging over the film is this: when does the party have to stop?
The film perfectly encapsulates the ferocity of female friendship in your twenties and that feeling of rushing headfirst, together, into the night. That feeling of anything-can-happen, nights out are magic, we are wild. It’s a heavenly thing to watch Holliday and Alia live that out on screen, with the literal highs balanced with the awkward, messy, vomit-y downsides to that lifestyle. Horribly, brutally relatable in the very best way.
I’ve never seen a film capture that feeling so well, and as a woman currently approaching her 30’s it cut pretty close to the bone. Laura’s fear of never finishing her novel, not being good enough, being pushed down by the easy way out. She says at one point that drinking wine doesn’t help her write, but it helps her to not care about writing. Ouch.
The film is full of such fantastic honest dialogue, and from not having read the book, I can only assume a lot of it is lifted straight from the page – I can’t wait to read it and find out. It perfectly depicts that irritating, dreamer, artistic, martini drinking, quoting Yates and behaving like you’re the next F.Scott Fitzgerald person. One of my favourites.
Both Holliday and Alia carry the film off with ease, a testimony to what fabulously skilled actors they are. Holliday in particular is so believable while high/drunk/fucked up, especially in the last few scenes where her behaviour gets harder and harder to watch. Her character arc is gripping from the start, and by the end I was crossing all my fingers and toes for her to be OK.
I both desperately wanted to be friends with their characters, and cringed painfully when things got too messy.
There’s a brilliant scene at the end where Laura catches sight of herself in the mirror at the wrong end of a party, and seeing the reflection of her face, gaunt and dirty and messy, is enough to remind you of every time this has happened to you. She slowly surveys her surroundings, taking in the ash trays and the broken glass and the dirt, and the thought is unspoken yet as clear as day: am I still having fun? Sophie Hyde‘s direction at it’s best.
Another absolute highlight is the baby-scene, which without offering any spoilers is so wonderfully directed that I felt my heart race quicken while I was watching it, and did an actual out loud GASP! at its crescendo.
The use of Lorde ‘Royals’ in one of the closing scenes is also so fantastically on point that I listened to her Melodrama album for 3 days afterwards. Perfect, romantic, young woman angst. SO on point.
Some of Tyler’s lines feel so poetic and outlandish that before I got used to her way of speaking, I found it knocked me out of the film daydream state. But whatever! I have nothing actually bad to say!
Layer upon layer of pure female genius, and painfully true to life for a lot of the best women I know. I truly did not want it to end. Let’s all get pissed and watch it together!