My Animal

September 9, 202360/1005 min
Starring
Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Amandla Stenberg, Heidi von Palleske
Written by
Jae Matthews
Directed by
Jacqueline Castel
Run Time
1h 40min
Release Date
September 8th, 2023.
Overall Score
Rating Summary

Most movies about werewolves focus on the monster and not the person who turns into it. I say most because Twilight was about a whole lot more than just some cool werewolf howling at the moon. My Animal, the feature debut from Jacqueline Castel, changes that up a little and instead focuses on acceptance and the exploration of identity.

Heather (Bobbi Salcör Menuez) seems to be quite the outcast in her small town, which is currently covered in snow. She works at the local skating rink, where she maintains it, but that is not the only reason she goes there. She is also an aspiring goalie who spends her time training with her father, Henry (Stephen McHattie), and her two younger brothers. You could say that the rink is the center of her life, so it’s no surprise that she meets someone she wants to get to know there. That someone is Jonny (Amandla Stenberg). Soon, short conversations at the rink turn into hanging out with each other and Jonny’s friends. Heather doesn’t just want to be friends; she is attracted to Jonny. It just takes the right moment to let him know. That, though, is not the only secret Heather is keeping from Jonny, as she is someone you don’t want to be around by the light of the full moon. Henry and his wife Patti (Heidi von Palleske), have done their best to protect Heather, even going as far as locking her up on those full moon nights. You can only protect your kids for so long, and with emotions running a little high, things get a little hairy.

Written by Jae Matthews, My Animal is not so much about the words that are written but more about the look and sound of the film. This is a story about identity as Heather is dealing with everyone around her unwilling to accept her for who she is. The script, though, has limitations, and because of that, the characters, including Heather, never shine their brightest. Where My Animal is at its best is in its visuals and soundtrack, both of which seduce you into its world. The synthpop soundtrack by Augustus Muller is hypnotizing and, for me, really sets the mood while watching. When you add the cinematography by Bryn McCashin, who fills the screen with the color red, the atmosphere definitely sets right tone.

My Animal is not the kind of werewolf movie that is filled with violence and action; in fact, it is quite the opposite. The film focuses on heartbreak, and it is anchored by a good performance by Menuez, even if it is held back somewhat by the script’s lack of bite. Where the story might make you recoil a little, the atmospheric vibes courtesy of the music and overall vibes bring you back in. There is a true effort on the part of the filmmakers in My Animal, and while it has its snags, I still very much want to see what Castel does next.

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