David Dastmalchian will appear in this summer’s new Marvel franchise Ant-Man, but Animals is probably way more important to him, considering he wrote it. The premise — homeless drug addicts in love — is depressing, but as directed by Collin Schiffli, the film has warmth and humor, ultimately conveying a sense of redemptive hope that Dastmalchian likely brings to the table.
He plays Jude, a junkie who lives in a car with the love of his life, Bobbie (Kim Shaw, who’s great). At the film’s outset, the pair are in relatively good shape, affectionate and playful despite homelessness, but living close to the edge of their resources and the bottom of their stash. Their marginal life is financed with petty theft and clever cons — they’re both educated, presumably suburban-raised, and smart enough to know they’re taking terrible chances.
They accept the unpleasant responsibilities ancillary to drug addiction: She hooks up with guys on “dates” during which she snatches their money; he climbs through the scary stairwells of tenements to buy drugs. Jude has a tooth beginning to rot and Bobbie complains about pain in her breast. Dastmalchian’s script is compassionate but unsparing — mostly. As the duo becomes increasingly junk-sick, Jude finds himself unable to muster the sociopathy to rob a mother sitting with her baby in a park.
And after Jude is forcibly committed to a mental hospital, Bobbie meets a kindly security guard played by sweet old John Heard, who helps her get off the street. Schiffli and Dastmalchian deliver a sweet, elegiac concluding moment that offers a measure of hope without making a lot of unbelievable promises.