Andrew Serong

A hobby blog. Expect cats.

Animal Kingdom

August 12, 2011

So I'm a year late to the party, but what a party. I just saw Animal Kingdom for the first time, and I've gotta say, I was pretty blown away. It's an exciting, deeply engaging story that wrestles with so many themes I love to see explored on film: finding your identity, separation from family, where you fit in with society... told from the perspective of an 18-year-old in the context of a crime family, and Melbourne cops... this is a genre I usually avoid, yet the story here had me hooked. The score is so beautifully haunting, capturing the sense of loneliness and isolation of the protagonist, but also the sense of finality and purpose which becomes so clear by the end of the film. It's certainly one of the best Australian films I've seen in a good long while, with a strong ensemble cast.

Here's a good interview with the film's director, David Michod.

He makes a wonderful point about Australian cinema, that each year we produce 20 - 40 films, and from that you're only going to get a yield of 2-3 really good films. He says that this pretty much matches the output of other countries around the world, it's just that only their good films make it all the way over here. This is an excellent point, and I really hadn't thought about it before. And the interview also made me realise I am guilty of being particularly harsh on Australian cinema. So, of course, we're antagonistic because we're surrounded by a lot of slush, but I think it's also the closeness to the source material.

In Animal Kingdom, there's a scene that was shot at the end of my street. As Australians, when we see Australians up on screen, I think we're hyper critical because we know instinctively when we hear a lie. We know the accent from birth, and anything inauthentic sticks out. Yet I really don't have such a good barometer when it comes to American or Canadian film, as having never been to those places, and not having grown up there, I've sort of learnt about those places from fiction anyway. So I'm comparing fiction with fiction, as opposed to my direct lived experience with the work of a film.

Animal Kingdom felt thoroughly authentic, with subtle, nuanced, brilliant performances, and a sharp script. Not necessarily a date movie, but gripping, moving, and so, so good.

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