“Animals” is an important film for Chicago. It is a representation of how good films can be that are made in the Windy City. It also involves the arrival of a spectacular talent in actor/writer David Dastmalchian, whose name is hard to pronounce, but his performance is the real deal. “Animals” is a personal film for David D. He started with a small part in “The Dark Knight”, and will be seen in the upcoming Marvel film “Ant-Man”, but this will be known as the movie that started it all. Opening this weekend in select theaters and On Demand, “Animals” is a tough, but poetic film. It is about two drug addicts living in a car, in love, trapped in their habits, and fighting to change their ways.  

First time director Collin Schiffli shakes off any jitters early, as he opens the film with elegant shots of the caged animals at the Lincoln Park zoo. It is a contrast to the observations that can be made about our two characters, Jude (Dastmalchian) and Bobbie (Kim). They are not your typical homeless junkies. In many ways they are resilient. They spend days walking along the lakefront of the city, waste time in diners while they use the bathrooms to shoot up. At night, they are sleeping in the car and Bobbie visits gentleman callers only to steal money from them. But together, they are positive that this life they live is not the end. 

Dastmalchian is an actor known from his looks alone. His face has the edges of a modern day Peter Lorre (“Casablanca”) or Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”), which makes him distinguishable, and at times cast as the scary guy. Publicly, Dastmalchian has not shied away from his scripts truths in his personal struggles with drug addiction (Read David’s Interview on HERE). The writing, paired with Schiffli’s direction, is comparable to an independent first film like Martin Scorsese’s “Whose That Knocking at my Door” and will remind viewers of Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy”. 

Not to be overshadowed is the powerful performance from Kim Shaw (“She’s Out of my League”), who works with Dastmalchian with a confident ease. As Bobbie and Jude’s addiction gets stronger, they start to lose a sense of the humans that they once were. One can only survive on scams of selling CD’s or stolen wedding gifts for so long. Their relationship is chronicled with an in-depth passing of time that starts as a disturbing look into drug abuse and begins to show glimmers of survival for people who struggle with addiction. 

“Animals” is a confident, breakthrough effort from all involved. It is a film that will feel common among other movies that depict drug use, but at its core, is a unique Chicago story that has never been told. Collin Schiffli uses the setting and Dastmalchian’s writing to create a fantastic first effort. If the film leaves us with anything, it is a cautionary tale of the lives we can live. A tale to express that addiction is real and there are plenty of Bobbie and Jude’s out there somewhere, we just need to know where to look. 

3 ½ Stars

Written By: Leo Brady 

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