All the Little Animals is a sweet, earnest but ultimately schizophrenic film with a strong environmental message. It tells the story of Bobby, a
childlike man in his mid twenties who was left brain damaged after a car accident. His mother’s death leaves him to the mercy of her horrible
husband, De Winter, who Bobby has dubbed “The Fat.” When De Winter threatens to institutionalise Bobby, he flees to the countryside and meets up with Mr. Summers, an eccentric recluse who spends his days burying road kill and cursing the human race. As Bobby has always had a soft spot for creatures, the two of them get along like a house on fire. That is, until Bobby’s past threatens to intrude into his new-found idyll.
Christian Bale is utterly sympathetic and engaging as Bobby. He convincingly communicates both the simplicity and chaos of his character’s personality and gives the film a strong emotional core. While John Hurt, as Mr. Summers, gives a typically strong performance he strangely fails to occupy the same narrative space as Bale. The two actors just don’t connect leaving the most important relationship in the story feeling rather ineffectual. Daniel Benzali, as Bobby’s evil but not particularly fat step-father, further weakens the film by choosing to go for dull quiet menace when a lot of stomping about and red-faced screaming are required. This film is producer Jeremy Thomas’ first foray into the world of directing. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to bring Eski Thomas’ wonderful screenplay based on Walker Hamilton’s novel fully to life. After the stirring opening shot of an older, wiser Bobby sitting in golden field as the wind blows through his hair, the direction goes downhill. The camera never feels as if it is in control of the story or the scenery. The film’s strength is in its unusual subject matter. While the environmental message is somewhat heavy handed the story does bring up interesting ideas about the different values we place on various kinds of life. One imagines that it could have been brilliant in a more experienced director’s hands.