Leo (Aaron Poole) is a Toronto-based theatre director, who finds himself frustrated by the group of misfits that make up his theatre troupe, as well as the fact that he seems to be growing apart from his teenage son Sam (Jacob Switzer). Inspired by a video he made of Sam when he was 8, Leo gets the idea for “The Animal Project,” in which he asks the theatre troupe to dress up in animal costumes and interact with strangers in the street. Through this ridiculous concept, Leo learns to bond with Sam, while the other troupe members work out their own individual issues.
The Animal Project is simultaneously as touching as it is hilarious. Even though the premise of having people dress up in animal costumes and walk through the streets of Toronto is inherently ridiculous, director Ingrid Veninger (Modra, i am a good person/i am a bad person) finds a way to make this work, while also adding a lot of heart. Probably the main highlight of the film is a montage, which just has the people in animal costumes running wild.
Even though the father/son story is the main dramatic thread, each member of the theatre troupe has their own individual subplots, which develop over the course of the film. As ridiculous as it seems, dressing up as animals helps many of these characters open up about their true feelings and insecurities.
All together The Animal Project might seem like a “quirky Canadian film” on the outside, but it is still filled with a whole lot of heart.
Is The Animal Project essential TIFF viewing?
I am definitely recommending that you give this film a watch, especially if you are a supporter of locally produced Canadian cinema.