Starring: David Dastmalchian, Kim Shaw
Directed by: Colin Schiffli (debut)
Written by: David Dastmalchian (debut)

Jude (David Dastmalchian) and Bobbie (Kim Shaw) are always chasing their next heroin fix in the indie drama “Animals.” Living in their decrepit 1980s sedan parked outside Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, the couple fences stolen CDs, poses as wedding guests to raid the gift table, and con potential johns in an elaborate prostitution scheme, all in an effort to scrape together enough cash to purchase more of the narcotics that are rapidly destroying their lives and their relationship. They imagine themselves the happy couple one step away from figuring their lives out, when the reality is their lifestyle will likely end in arrest or death.

Written by Dastmalchian (who just picked up a prize for Special Jury Recognition for Courage in Storytelling at SXSW for this film) crafts a bleak narrative of a young couple truly in love and truly destroying one another, but isn’t afraid to let Jude and Bobbie have a few moments of real happiness. Director Colin Schiffli keeps the film grounded in reality, poking his camera in between the seats of their crappy car to catch the desperation as money runs outs or the drugs don’t work as well anymore. If there’s anything that doesn’t ring true, it’s that Dastmalchian and Shaw are probably a little too clean and pretty to be destitute heroin addicts living day to day in their car outside a zoo. But that’s a minor quibble, and doesn’t do anything to dampen the emotional impact of the denouement. Here’s hoping Schiffli and Dastmalchian keep telling stories together.

“Animals” premiered at SXSW 2014.

For more coverage of SXSW 2014, click here.

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