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American Animals

Bart Layton

Writer/director Bart Layton burst onto the scene with the documentary The Imposter, astounding us with his storytelling panache. His latest film, American Animals, is both a gripping heist film based on a true story and an existential journey about four misguided young men searching in all the wrong places for identity, meaning and adventure.

The story begins in Lexington, Kentucky in 2004 where Warren (Evan Peters) and Spencer (The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s Barry Keoghan) dream of remarkable lives beyond their middle-class suburban existence. They head off to college, haunted by the fear they may never actually be special in any way. When Spencer is given a tour of his school’s incredibly valuable rare book collection and describes it all to Warren, it suddenly hits them – they could pull off one of the most audacious art thefts in recent history. Their targets, John James Audubon’s vividly illustrated Birds of America and a rare copy of Darwin’s On The Origin of the Species, are under the careful watch of middle-aged archivist BJ (TheHandmaid’s Tale’s Ann Dowd). Convinced they can get away with it, Warren and Spencer recruit two other friends in their misguided adventure.

Blending the recollections of the real people with the drama, Layton uses his documentary background to effortlessly juggle different perspectives and unreliable memories. Made with the same technical bravado as his previous work, we found this film an absolute thrill – a fresh, daring, exciting and unique cinematic experience.