Some call them “creatures”; the others prefer to say “critters”. What are they talking about? The world has changed. Some humans turn more or less into animals. In the traffic jam at the beginning, a sort of large bird escapes from an ambulance. A father and son witness the scene. They are used to. Their wife and mother awaits them in a specialized center, covered in hair, unrecognizable, a double of Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast. All that remains is his gaze.
Distraught, united, colliding like two flints, François and Émile leave for the South. Direction the Landes. This change of air will do them good. The teenager is sulky, flammable, skinned alive. They stay at the campsite in a prefabricated building. At college, the new kid is looking for his bearings. There are the booms, the stupid laughs, the first flirtations. Romain Duris, the father, works as a cook in a restaurant by the river. The mother disappeared in the forest. They are looking for her.
Under the moon, Pierre Bachelet blasting the car radio, they drive wildly through the woods, shouting his first name. “Mommy!” cries the child, as if his life depended on it. The scene could descend into ridicule, it triggers cascading emotions.
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Duris sympathizes with a gendarme. Adèle Exarchopoulos, always funny, capable of donning any uniform, is awaiting her transfer (the term should not be taken in a scientific sense). The situation goes a little beyond the constabulary. Thomas Cailley films a reality that is disrupted, taking a step aside. This daily fantasy “soft” benefits from special effects that are anything but eye-catching. A kind of octopus is causing havoc in a supermarket. A strange beast surprises the hero in a boathouse. Funny atmosphere. The residents are divided. There are some who are ready to live together. Opposite, the skeptics will not hesitate to pull out the gun. Meanwhile, young Émile pulls out the claws that grow under his nails.
His secret must never be revealed. He sniffs strangely, licks his blood, eats without his hands. His girlfriend opens her eyes wide. It's a love story. A father learns to discover his son, to understand him. It will even be a matter of saving him. This metamorphosis is perhaps a blessing. Cailley shows the undergrowth like John Boorman in Deliverance, a universe populated by screams, quivering ferns, neophytes practicing flying or catching fish with their bare hands. The fable avoids the pitfall of didacticism thanks to a concern for realism tempered with concern.
Peasants on stilts celebrate Midsummer. The night is teeming with surprises and hopes. The Animal Kingdom stands out with its mastery, its originality, this ability to mix genres, without anything that poses or weighs. With Cailley, we are ready to swallow all the snakes. However, the species does not appear in the credits.
The Note of Figaro: 3/4