A Toronto theatre director endures a series of creative and personal travails in this affecting and typically inventive new film from Festival favourite Ingrid Veninger (MODRA, i am a good person/i am a bad person).
The Animal Project
Canadian indie queen Ingrid Veninger returns to the Festival with her most controlled film yet, a partially improvised tale driven by an ensemble cast. At the centre is frustrated theatre director Leo (Aaron Poole, one of Toronto's finest actors), whose recent sessions with what he calls his "misfit" troupe have stalled creatively. One of the actors, Saul (Joey Klein), is an ex-lover Leo still has unresolved feelings about — who responds to all of his suggestions with withering smirks and nasty asides. Leo's also having trouble with his teenage son, Sam (Jacob Switzer); the ongoing tension between them seems to mean they're growing apart.
One night, alone and trying to find solutions to his problems, Leo hits on an idea, or rather, rediscovers one. In one of his old short films, The Bunny Project, a preteen Sam, dressed in a bunny suit, discussed his feelings about the world and wandered around Toronto offering free hugs. Putting his actors in costume and sending them out into the real world may spark the kind of engagement they've been lacking. Or so Leo hopes.
The Animal Project is about how day-to-day
life can make us lose sight of the big
picture — and about the difficulty of separating
the personal and the professional.
Leo's problems at work cause him to lash
out at Sam, who's working through his own
stuff. That frustration at home only makes
Leo more ornery with the troupe (which
includes 2013 TIFF Rising Star Johnathan
Sousa), all of whom have been struggling
with their own emotional baggage. The
Animal Project is a telling reminder that we
can try to hide from our problems, but they
certainly aren't going to hide from us.