Skip to main content
film review

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi plays Evelyne Ducat and Nadia Tereszkiewicz is Marion in Only the Animals.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

  • Only the Animals
  • Directed by Dominik Moll
  • Written by Dominik Moll and Gilles Marchand (adapted from the novel Seules les bêtes by Colin Niel
  • Starring Denis Ménochet, Laure Calamy and Damien Bonnard
  • Classification PG; 116 minutes
  • Opens in theatres in Toronto and Vancouver, Nov. 5; Montreal, Nov. 26.

It’s a little complicated, but the gist of Dominik Moll’s twisty-tangled French thriller is that the disappearance of a vacationing, upscale woman in the wintery highlands brings together a diverse handful of characters: A morose sheep farmer, an African scam artist, a comely young waitress and a philandering wife and her internet-surfing husband (played by Denis Ménochet, the farmer from Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds).

The nonlinear storytelling used by Moll is elegant, if a little complicated. The method is known as the Rashomon effect, named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, in which a murder is described in different ways by different witnesses. Which is not to say a murder has been committed in Only the Animals. There will be no plot giveaways or even subtle hints in this review – you can thank me for that later.

One or two of the story turns are far-fetched, but the delicious absurdism of the situations are worth any contrivances. Only the Animals unfolds beautifully. (Why is the film called Only the Animals? Well, it’s complicated.)

Some might find the characters written with heavy cynicism. I’d rather see their desperate pursuits as poignant and comically human, even if the film’s tone is dark. These are lonely people seeking love. It’s not that complicated.

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a critic’s pick designation across all coverage.