My Animal Review

My Animal
My Animal
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Isolation is felt throughout My Animal. Filmed in the small town of Timmins, Northern Ontario during winter, this creative gay werewolf movie is hemmed in by huge snow banks, just as its inhabitants too aren’t any warmer either. Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) grows up isolated and alienated among outcasts in a family of local pariahs spending her time with her brothers playing hockey under the guidance of their supportive dad Henry (Stephen McHattie), with whom she shares a monstrous secret.

Heather and Henry are werewolves who have made it a habit to lock themselves into their rooms for three days every month surrounding the full moon. On the most dangerous nights, he shackles his daughter to her bed so that she does not hurt anyone or herself. Patti (Heidi von Palleske) married into this curse and accepts it by getting drunk out of spite. They’re still young but Cooper (Charles F. Halpenny) and Hardy (Harrison W. Halpenny) could be feral enough for it to happen when they hit puberty.

Heather also has another secret too; same-sex attractions – one early scene has her masturbating while watching female wrestlers on video tape – which makes Heather more different than anybody else within her world already. At some point though, she meets Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), who is new to town and spends most of her time practicing figure skating at an ice rink where Heather hangs out hoping that one day she may join the local men’s team for hockey tryouts. The two become fast friends and spend many evenings together behaving like bored teenagers in small towns: spinning cars around in parking lots covered in ice and drinking booze that they had stolen.

In one night where after Heather confessed her feelings towards Jonny then both ended up sleeping together . Inevitably, given their provincial background, this ends up complicating things in several ways, some involving Jonny’s boyfriend Rick, a crude jock (Cory Lipman). The repression is further reinforced by Jacqueline Castel who sets the film within an indistinct retro environment; just like the 1980s as suggested by Boy Harsher’s Augustus Muller wooden paneling, tube TVs and the throbbing synth score – but Timmins-like towns are generally ten years behind the rest of the world so it could also be the 1990s. But this was prior to Matthew Shepard, so on any level it would not be safe for Heather to come out.

To make matters worse, Heather and Jonny are often placed in empty spaces shot through off-center angles creating this feeling of loneliness throughout. One gets an impression that there is nobody around most of the times and when rooms become full, presence of humans becomes more menacing than comforting. In Heather’s dreams and pictures taken tastefully speaking about their stolen night with Jonny these happen against a black background colored in reds, pinks and blues. A lot of the redness covers much of the movie: her bedroom carpet; the neon sign above her hero’s bar; Jonny’s lipstick; tail lights on lonely back roads-all shades of blood-red lustful danger.

Castel got her start as a director working on music videos, and My Animal reflects that experience. This is a film that’s more about style and feeling than plot, and Castel makes extensive use of delirious POV shots in the Evil Dead mold, zooming through snowy woods at night from a wolf’s eye view. Interestingly, she also holds back on revealing Jonny’s lupine transformation as much as possible, underlining the metaphor by de-emphasizing the monster.

All of which adds up to sheer Canadian-ness – Scott Thompson plays Jonny’s dad, giving both girls northern screen legends for fathers – while Menuez and Stenberg have so much chemistry together that this movie has lots of energy and meaning too. (McHattie’s gruff paternal figure also lends the film some much-needed warmth.) If the story’s trajectory is undeniably familiar, that’s because the experiences of queer people in small towns tend to be depressingly similar. Like the full moon, these cycles of oppression and liberation keep coming around again.


This queer Canadian take on the werewolf genre taps into feelings of isolation, reflecting the lonely existence of its lycanthropic main character. The My Animal film is more about style than plot, but its setting and direction are fresh enough; its stars have such good chemistry together, that it could devastate any LGBTQ+ viewers who watch it with nostalgia.

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