Only the Animals (3 stars)

Only the Animals

Compelling and ambitious but rather far-fetched thriller from Dominik Moll

Dominik Moll's Only the Animals has all the ingredients for an Agatha Christie-style mystery. There is a missing woman, a remote, snow-covered location and a cast of characters at the mercy of secret lives, guilt and betrayal. What follows does unravel the whodunnit element but also develops into a spider's web of a story that spans the globe and charts the unexpected consequences of individual heartache.

The limestone plateau of Causse Méjean in southern France is the film's principal setting. Farmer's wife Alice (Laure Calamy) is the first character under the microscope as we witness her affair with Joseph (Damien Bonnard). When the spotlight moves to Joseph, we revisit events with a fresh perspective. We subsequently learn of missing woman Evelyne (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and her infidelity, the loneliness of Alice's husband Michel (Denis Ménochet) and the way all elements in this tangled web lead to Armand (Guy Roger 'Bibesse' N'drin) in the Ivory Coast.

Only the Animals is the most compelling film in some time from Moll, who made his mark with the quirky thrillers Harry, He's Here to Help (2000) and Lemming (2005). His adaptation of the Colin Niel novel doesn't quite sustain the initial sense of intrigue. When the focus expands, the tension slackens and we lose sight of some of the characters whose fate remains unknown. A daisy-chain of revelations grows less persuasive. A merciless scam depicted in a plodding exchange of messages tends to drag the film down.

This is still an ambitious tale of lonely hearts and unrequited love, where you want to discover what happens next. A classy cast, including a restrained Bruni Tedeschi and a fragile Nadia Tereszkiewicz as her overeager lover Marion, lend conviction to a story where some of the wild coincidences begin to beggar belief.

Available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from Fri 29 May.

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