Empathetic Sci-Fi Drama Questions Humanity In Surreal Fashion [Sundance]

“Animalia” will likely leave viewers with more questions than answers, and that is entirely by design. Alaoui keeps the aliens shrouded in mystery and symbolism up until the very end, which allows for some effective tension-building. Each strange event that Itto encounters, which includes aggressive animals packed in herds and people with meek smiles, adds to the film’s mystery. Once we get our most detailed look at the aliens and their ultimate motive, they’re only seen in vague imagery and incomprehensible montages. The way they are presented is ultimately more satisfying than if everything was spelled out, and it solidifies Alaoui as a filmmaker that knows how to keep audiences hooked through the most abstract of ideas.

The aliens aren’t the only aspects of the film effectively developed for the screen. Itto is a compelling and sympathetic protagonist, not being as materialistic as her in-laws, but still willfully ignorant of the plights of those around her. However, it is Barid’s delicate performance that makes Itto worth following – she provides much-needed nuance to a character who could have easily become a “rags to riches” stereotype. It’s likely that “Animalia” would not work without her, as the characters Itto encounters throughout the film are nowhere near as interesting to care about.

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