Wild Animals

By Naftali Beane Rutter | Drama
A teenage boy hides in a bathroom after a school shooting, struggling to come to grips with the aftermath.

A young man hides in the bathroom after a school shooting, shaken by what has just happened and trying to come to grips with the event.

But soon he discovers he’s not alone, leading to an encounter that will upend the audience expectations and take viewers through a dark and intense turn.

Writer-director Naftali Beane Rutter’s short drama is lean, focused and even minimalist in approach, capturing the emotional moments after a school shooting and taking place entirely in a bathroom.

But though its story and visual approach mindfully narrows down in scope on a small moment during a horrific event, the film packs plenty of intelligence and intensity in its 8-minute runtime, proving itself provocative and even confrontational in its dramatization of an immensely controversial topic.

The film begins in a state of disorientation, but its chaos isn’t created by formal techniques like rapid- fire editing or dizzying camerawork. Instead, viewers find themselves dropped into the middle of an intimate moment, as a young man seems to be having some kind of quiet breakdown in a restroom.

His sense of agitation and strange alienation is contrasted by the still, almost clinical eye of the camera that dispassionately captures him, almost like a specimen underneath a hidden observational lens. The visual approach is stripped down, even willfully static, and the performances here are controlled and even oddly removed in moments, which may perhaps comment on the dissociation experienced by the characters in the film.

The story’s tempo is shaped by thoughtfully constructed editing and camera shots that offers shards of information that viewers must piece together to orient themselves. But as the circumstances unfold and clues begin to pile up — especially embedded within the subtle sound design work — the initial bewilderment shifts into dread, which then escalates into terror, fear and even a sense of sadness as the short details its final confrontation.

“Wild Animals” is a sadly relevant and topical film that refuses to offer any easy answers on gun violence. Instead, it captures the toxic combination of loathing and longing that might drive people to violence and the strange fleeting moment when the moral ramifications perhaps pierce through into awareness, if only momentarily. The juxtaposition of coiled violence with moments of vulnerability proves powerful, gripping and ultimately haunting, leaving viewers disquieted at the lack of tidy conclusions — especially with a topic that continues to evade easy understanding and solutions in the real world.

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