Family is a funny thing. You don’t get to choose your parents or siblings, and yet they’re there. The worst part (or the best) is there’s nothing you can do about it. Leland Montgomery and Tom Dugdale’s short film Like Animals tells the story of a family looking to move on after the death of their mother.
In sadness, a funeral brings a family of siblings together. For three sisters, Mary (Zoë Chao), Olga (Cass Bugge), and Irene (Tera McHenry), the passing of their mother marks an opportune time to move on to the next chapter of their lives. The plan is to sell the family home—where they currently live, move away, and start anew. Then there’s younger brother, Andy (Chris Aguila), who lives in Los Angeles and is acting as the executor of his mother’s estate. He has the final say on the sale of the home. And innocently, Andy with fiancé Nate (William Thomas Hodgson), throws a wrench in the sisters’ plan.
“He has the final say on the sale of the home. And…throws a wrench in the sisters’ plan.”
Like Animals is a snapshot in time for this family. The title refers to the moment when the siblings gather for a birthday party, and the sisters circle Andy immediately after the “Happy Birthdays” to confront Andy about the sale of the house. In an instant, plans are thwarted, and tempers rise. All juxtaposed with very subtle hints and reveals about the goodness and kindness of the family’s matriarch throughout the short.
The advantage of a short film is that you don’t have to have a beginning, middle, or end. Montgomery and Dugdale present a powerful middle—giving audiences just enough information to know what’s happening and offer an authentic depiction of family when dreams and life goals come into conflict. It ends with a haunting narration about their mother’s character, including how she dealt with situations that didn’t go her way.
As a film, the production values are exceptional for a simple dramatic story. The cinematography is top-notch accompanied by quality sound and editing—visually, its practically flawless. I also appreciate how writing and acting work together. Each sibling is a uniquely defined character, responding to the conflict in their own personal way. Honestly, you don’t always see that in short films, where characters are generic and feel like actors reciting lines.
Like Animals is a beautiful tapestry of writing, directing, cinematography, acting, etc. interwoven to tell an insightful story of a family in transition.
"…the production values are exceptional for a simple dramatic story."