Friday, 13 August 2010

Animal Kingdom

James Frecheville (J) in Animal Kingdom.
Courtesy of eOne Films. All copyrights Porchlight Films 2009

Dir: David Michôd - feature film directorial debut
Cast: James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, Guy Pearce
Australia, 2010

Reason to see:
I'm been impressed with so many Australian films recently that now I'm always game to see any that are released here.

Toronto's been lucky to get some sensational Australian releases this year (like The Square) and Animal Kingdom shows that this is a trend that is going to keep on giving. I also keep wanting to call it a thriller, but it isn't - it just has the amazing intensity of a thrilled while being a drama which is very unusual to see, especially in a crime drama.

Animal Kingdom follows J, newcomer James Frecheville in a wonderfully understated performance, as he becomes taken in by his one-step removed crime family comprised of his uncles and their mother. And it's one big, yet tight-knit family that literally serves as it's own society which cleverly showcase several roles that are played, points of view and people at different stages of the game. From the skilled veteran and family man Barry (Joel Edgerton) to drug happy Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) to the softer, quieter Darren (Luke Ford) and the all-fearing Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) and at the top of it all is Janine aka Smurf, played by Jacki Weaver, whom even though is a fictionally character I'm going my best not to refer as J's grandmother.

You can see that it's one heck of a minefield for anyone to step into, even if you are family like our pal J who is family. It poses a very interesting question though of what do you do if this is your family? Do you step right up and into it? Do you model yourself after one of your uncles? With some many characters to draw on, is they anyone you'd like to be? Or, do you stick to your own guns and do your own thing? The amazing thing about the film is that it explores all of these questions and more while giving us a intense story of the family and their lives of crime to follow as well. The ensemble cast does an absolutely fantastic job shaping the roles in the family and their kingdom, that easily doubles as a seamless exploration. All of the performances are strong here, but I was completely floored by James Frecheville who resonates being so malleable that you don't know literally how he will develop throughout the film, yet he is neither naïve nor soft but rather still forming. It's a fascinating and natural performance that draws the viewer in to his life and this chaotic world.

Truly a stellar film filled with amazing talent and compelling characters, Animal Kingdom is a must see. Beautifully shot, carefully crafted and takes total ownership of a very intense view of family and crime. I already want to watch it again.

See also: Animal Kingdom DVD Review

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I buy it
I highly recommend it to fans of drama & crime films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

James Frecheville, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom.
Photo Credit John Tsiavis. Courtesy of eOne Films. All copyright Porchlight Films 2009

Guy Pearce (Leckie), James Frecheville (J)
Photo Credit: Narelle Sheean. Courtesy of eOne Films. All copyrights Porchlight Films 2009

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