LIKE ANIMALS is a visually stunning film which opens with a haunting score in a neighborhood lackluster of life. The non-color palette and neutral tones define a monotone way of living that reflects the lives of the characters that call this home. The score creates a foreboding pulse to the film that carries the story in a haunting rhythm.
“Today is my mother’s funeral.” Writer/Director Leland Montgomery tells an all too common story about family dynamics after the loss of a parent. This family dynamic consists of three sisters and one brother. The brother is the Executor of the mother’s estate. He was living in Los Angeles with his male fiance as his three sisters stayed behind in the house, living with their mother, until she passed away. They all agreed to sell the house. The sisters have big plans on getting out of this town to nowhere. Their new beginning can only start with the money they will receive from the sale of their mother’s house – that is until the brother informs his sisters that he and his fiance will be moving into the house – not selling at all.
Montgomery sets this scene during a birthday celebration and takes the scene in the opposite direction with the news. A poignant performance by Zoe Chao (Mary) as we watch her dream unravel in front of us as the rug gets pulled out from underneath her. Mary asks “what do we do?” Her sister simply replies “adjust.” It’s a moment that ties into another theme of the film – the question of whether their mother was happy here or not. “She got stuck. People in this town don’t leave – they get stuck”.
The excellence of this short film is a combination of writing (co-written by Tom Dugdale), acting (superb ensemble), cinematography (Eli Arenson), score (Brian McOmber) and editing (Spencer Devlin Howard). So beautifully layered is this film that it makes it a gem.
The acting performances are rich, subtle and nuanced. The casting so spot on that these actors truly look and feel like siblings. There’s an intimacy between the screen and the audience that makes you feel as if you’re part of this family.
Montgomery creates a world for the audience to become part of. The location is stunning, yet lonely and desolate – as if time stands still. The aerial shots show the audience how large the landscape is – while revealing its isolation.
LIKE ANIMALS is a heartfelt journey of a family’s pain, hopes and crushing reality. We get a glimpse into our own world – by looking at theirs. Montgomery reminds us all that by accepting what is, we may have a chance at true happiness.