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Animals

Sophie Hyde

Director Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays) brings Emma Jane Unsworth’s 2014 coming-of-age novel about female friendship to the big screen with Animals. Following in the footsteps of films like Daphne and TV series like Fleabag, its story centres on the trials and tribulations of two young women navigating life in our modern world, falling in and out of love, challenging expectations and struggling to find a purpose they can believe in.

Best friends Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) spend their days working as baristas and their nights partying. Laura aspires to become a writer, but never seems to get much writing done. When together, the pair make it their mission to have fun as long as it lasts. But a new relationship with young pianist Jim (Fra Fee) and the arrival of her former wild-child sister’s new baby offer Laura the glimpse of a different life. Tyler is steadfast in her commitment to hedonism, but Laura starts to have doubts, and their friendship comes under pressure.

Transposing the novel’s setting from Manchester to Dublin seems seamless. Grainger’s Irish accent is spot-on and there’s a palpable sense of spontaneity and freedom in her performance. Shawkat, best known in the UK for the American TV series Arrested Development, brings a dark vulnerability to Tyler that hints at her uncompromised commitment to a life of debauchery. Much of Animals' story is familiar, but the gender of its protagonists makes it feel fresh; after years of watching films about boys behaving badly, now it's the girls' turn.