SXSW 2018 Review: AMERICAN ANIMALS

By Jan Hamilton

Four college kids, from upper middle class families in Lexington, Kentucky, decide to steal some of the world’s most valuable books from Transylvania University.  The books include an Audubon’s first edition of Birds of America, Darwin’s On The Origin of Species, and the Bible.  Warren (Evan Peters), the defacto leader of the group,  seems bored with life and sometimes finds amusement by breaking into local grocery stores to steal meat.  Spencer (Barry Keoghan) is the artist of the group, and likes the Audubon book for its illustrations.  Some members of the group have their doubts and qualms, but go along anyway.  Of course, the plan almost immediately goes wrong.

This film is actually based on a true story.  The real people, who inspired the film’s characters, get to tell their stories while the actors reenact the events.  Why would young men with everything going for them and presumed bright futures ahead risk it all?  With this in mind, audiences probably won’t empathize with the characters at all.  The mix of documentary and narrative within the same film is a choice that pays off.  Instead of just dismissing them as over-privileged jerks, audiences will get some insight into their thinking, however misguided at the time.  This is a film that is worth the time and attention.  Barry Keoghan, who was so chilling in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is once again excellent.

Film Credits:  

Director:  Bart Layton

Executive Producer:  Daniel Battsek,

David Kosse, Sam Lavender,

Len Blavatnik, Aviv Giladi, Toby Hill, Piers Vellacott,

Tory Metzger, Darren Demetre

Producer:  Derrin Schlesinger, Katherine Butler,

Dimitri Doganis, Mary Jane Skalski

Screenwriter: Bart Layton

Cinematographer: Ole Bratt Birkeland

Editor: Nick Fenton, Chris Gill, Luke Dunkley, Julian Hart

Production Designer: Scott Dougan

Sound Designer: Paul Davies

Music: Anne Nikitin

Principal Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner,

Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Udo Kier

Additional Credits: Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan

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