Updated: May 2, 2020
Directed by: #LelandMontgomery
Written by: #LelandMontgomery
Family dramas are nothing new, we’ve all suffered them at some point. And unfortunately, they often seem to come to the fore during significant and/or personal events - birthdays, weddings, etc. In Leland Montgomery’s slice-of-life exploration of sibling dynamism, that event is the death of a mother.
We join three sisters – Olga (Cass Buggé), Mary (Zoe Chao) and Irene (Tera McHenry) – and their younger brother, Andy (Chris Aguila,) at the funeral of their recently deceased mother. And while there is an apparent closeness, there also seems to be resentment bubbling just below the surface. Resentment that, while the three sisters, still living in the family home, are “trapped” in their backwood, go-nowhere town, Andy has managed to move out and on with his life. But, after the group decides to sell the family home, the chance for the sisters to escape their existence seems tantalisingly close. Unfortunately, with family, nothing is ever that simple.
It’s an intimate cast which presents itself in Like Animals, one with an incredible amount of personality. Especially for a 14-minute-long short film. Each of the sisters is easily discernable from one another, not just by the obvious differences in their appearance, but by the way they carry themselves and their attitude and mannerisms in general. It’s a truly remarkable cast, and every character here seems well developed and vital to the story, and with ample reason for their actions. The only problem here is the nature of the film itself. It’s just a tiny window into a story that should have more substance. And, sadly, it doesn’t.
Thematically, Like Animals deals mainly with the usual family stuff – selfishness, anger, love and loss – and so the basic set up is pretty straight forward. But there’s certainly nothing wrong with this, in fact, the movie benefits from it immensely. However, behind this veneer lies a superlative exploration of personal choice, regret and missed chances. Eli Arenson’s work on the movie’s cinematography thoroughly emphasises the scale and prevailing sense of emptiness in the girl’s lives. Which is achieved through brilliant framing of the film’s dustbowl-like exteriors.
While I do think – maybe with a little more time, or more concise writing – this could have been better, there’s a compelling examination on the complicated nature of sibling relationships here. Like Animals is a well-made piece of filmmaking and the underlying themes of regret and resignation are subtle but effective; they elevate the movie no end. But the real stars are its characters (which is fitting for a film that’s so character-oriented). The performances by the actors are superb, and the character writing itself is some of the best I’ve seen in a short film for quite some time. Like Animals is available on YouTube and linked below. And it’s well worth 14-minutes of your time.