Cannes 2023: Thomas Cailley's One-of-a-Kind 'The Animal Kingdom'

May 18, 2023

The Animal Kingdom Review

One of the first great discoveries at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival so far (we're only just getting going!) is this French film titled The Animal Kingdom, originally known as Le Règne Animal in French. Made by the French director Thomas Cailley, the upbeat genre film takes place in a world where humans suddenly start turning into animals. It's not as cheesy or as a dumb as it sounds when I put it like that, it's much more realistic and gritty, utilizing impressive prosthetics and SFX to show the day-to-day progress as humans very slowly begin to transform into beasts. The current title is The Animal Kingdom but I'd rather call it We Are All Animals instead, which is not meant to be a spoiler. When the film opens in Paris, the world has already started to accept that this transformation is happening (randomly to different people) but they can't really explain it and don't really know what to make of it. The story focuses on a teenage boy and his father.

Rather than take the Hollywood approach and focus on the transformation and the CGI-friendly scientific how and why, Cailley's The Animal Kingdom is a specific story focus on the adventure between a father and his son – starring Romain Duris and Paul Kircher. It just so happens to be set in a world where some humans have started mutating into other animal species. It's not just one kind of animal, it's anything, and when it starts happening you never know what you might turn into. There's a peculiar bird creature as one of the main characters, played by Tom Mercier, who is halfway through his transition but not fully there yet. There's reptiles and strange insects and bears and other mammals. As the title indicates, it is about the entire Animal Kingdom and ultimately the film is about reminding us one key fact about humanity – we're all animals. We're no better than, or above or different from, any other animal and we should get back to respecting that animals that are not humans are not below us, we can all exist & live together on this planet.

What makes this film stand out is all the technical elements and its buoyant vibe. There's moments of levity and well-earned humor that add a great deal to the experience. It also has a good amount of impressive set pieces, including a few involving stunning drone shots during a festival where the locals try to round up a few creatures. The performances are all very strong, featuring heartfelt and believable emotions. This one got me good. I was surprisingly moved by The Animal Kingdom, and captivated by its individuality as a film. It's absolutely a one-of-a-kind creation, I've never seen anything like it, despite plenty of other films before involving humans turning into animals. The concept may not be entirely unique, but this film feels notably fresh. It could be tightened up a bit, trimmed down, as it takes a bit too long to get to where it's going. I have a few other minor issues, but overall I really dug this film and I hope it finds its way to audiences worldwide.

Alex's Cannes 2023 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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