Animals (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

Pol (Oriol Pla) is a Spanish speaking teenager in Europe who has an English speaking teddy bear for a best friend. It’s no ordinary teddy bear though. He sees it as a living creature that follows him around, comforts him and gives him advice. The problem is, apparently he only sees his friend because he’s having mental issues.

He navigates through life, trying to hide the fact that he’s still talking to the bear from his policeman brother, while at the same time trying to figure out his own sexuality. On the one side, he’s got his best friend Laia, who wants to be with him, and on the other is an interesting, yet somewhat enigmatic artist type guy named Ikari.

Ok, that’s enough description, because it just doesn’t matter. I’m sorry. I don’t like havng to give bad reviews, nothing annoys me more than when a film comes off so utterly artsy and pretentious that it just makes you want to vomit, and that’s exactly how this film comes off – artsy and pretentious.

There’s not a single character in this film you can feel anything for, except for maybe Laia, because she’s in love with Pol, but he’s so busy running around being emo that he doesn’t even take notice. The fact that he is such an emo character is probably the biggest turn off in this film. The only character that showed any real passion for anything was his brother, who desperately wanted to break him out of his teddy bear psychosis so he wouldn’t have to have him institutionalized, but his part in the film was very limited.

Then we have Ikari, the enigmatic artist. Oh, by the way, he’s gay…and he’s a cutter. He’s got scars all up and down his arm, and he gets Pol to start cutting himself as well. He actually slices Pol’s arm open during a kiss between them in the woods. Later, Pol decided he liked it I guess, because toward the end of the film he was with Ikari in the school bathroom and wanted him to do it again.

Then there’s the dog. As a dog lover, there’s nothing I despise more than seeing a dog killed in a film, unless there’s a good reason for it. In this film, Laia hits and kills a dog while Pol is feeling up her leg as she’s driving. There was absolutely no reason or excuse for including that in the film. She could have just closed her eyes for a few seconds and missed a turn with the same result.

Oh, and then there’s the whole language thing. Some people are talking in Spanish, while others are talking in English, and yet they all understand each other just fine. If you watch with subtitles though, don’t expect any during the English parts, because there aren’t any, which makes it extra annoying.

Martin Freeman has a small part in the film as one of Pol’s teachers, which I’m still trying to figure out. I guess on paper this film probably sounded pretty interesting. In execution however, it ended up being 94 minutes of wasted time. About the only good things I can say about this film are that the cinematography was really nice, and the teddy bear puppetry and animation were done quite well. Other than that, I found nothing redeeming about it whatsoever.

Now mind you, there are people out there who love this film. This was simply my reaction to it. If you like these kinds of artsy films, then by all means check it out for yourself. For me, it was nothing short of tedious.

One last note. Oriol Pla’s name is either spelled wrong on IMDB, or on the DVD cover. On the cover, it’s spelled Orial Pla. On IMDB it’s Oriol. I’m not sure which is correct.

For special features, the DVD comes with a making of featurette, The Bear Truth: A Short Film, Animals: A Short Film by Marcal Flores, audio commentary with Marcal Flores and Travis Crawford, a 12-page collectible booklet, the official trailer, trailers for other Artsploitation Films releases and a reversible cover.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Artsploitation Films website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.