It’s not difficult to guess which beast is being referred to in the title of Katharina Mückstein’s coming-of-age drama L’Animale. In rural Austria, Mati (Sophie Stockinger) is only a few weeks away from passing her final exams. But matters of the heart soon take precedence over a graduation diploma in this charming, precise lesson about knowing yourself and letting love in.
Is it more important to follow desire or fear? Why is to die and to become a paradox? In the classroom, questions like this – of grave magnitude when you’re 17 – punctuate the gently on-the-nose point of the film. It’s in this in-between period, from your teenage years to the cusp of adulthood, that defining decisions start to shape who you are.
Most of the time, these thoughts don’t sway Mati. She seems to have most things figured out – she’s training as a vet alongside her mother and hangs out with her best friends (“sons of bitches” to everyone else) at the motocross park by day, the synth-heavy nightclub by night. But when an unexpected confession throws her most comfortable friendship off-kilter, everything is up for grabs and Mati’s balance is suddenly thrown.
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