Turning 30 is strange. It’s a unique crossroads in your life, with so many people hamstrung in a sort of limbo, caught between two contrasting parts of your life, when you’re too young not to have to worry all the time, and yet old enough to know better. Life’s big responsibilities are (generally speaking) still to come, there’s still a sense of frivolity to life, a spontaneity you’ll one day have to wave goodbye to. Yet at the same you’re always going to questioned at family gatherings about ‘why you’re not married yet’ and if you are ‘when are the children coming?’
It’s unique to millennials too, given how different times are than they were for our parents. For generations above, when you reached 30 you likely would’ve had a spouse, a mortgage and a semblance of structure within your life. But everything is shifting back, people are getting married later, they’re buying houses later, and though biology states that we can’t rest on our laurels too much, we’re also birthing later too. Particularly in cities like London, which are so expensive to live in, things just take… longer. Add that in to the culture of interning, this frustrating concept of working for very little (if you’re lucky to get anything at all), and many people are falling into their careers until their late 20s, or 30s, as opposed to coming straight out of school or university and getting a job, like used to be the case.
This is where the conflict comes from. We’re doing everything later, and yet societal pressures remains, and an element of guilt kicks in, as though we’re not gong quite enough with our lives, fused together with a foreboding sense of anxiety, self-analysing so consistently, asking the perennial question of; am I where I should be? Naturally, given millennials are now at an age where they’re writing and producing movies, it means that this very theme is one that is starting to be explored in cinema, and to great effect: Animals by Sophie Hyde, and based on a novel by Emma Jane Unsworth, is a testament to this fact.
The film captures this time so perfectly, through two characters, each representing different sides of the argument. You have Alia Shawkat playing Tyler, and Holliday Grainger – with a career best performance – as Laura, and it’s the latter who represents the viewer and this very conflict we speak of. So while Tyler is still taking drugs, partying, sleeping around and generally just have a absolutely fantastic time, Laura is starting to slow down. She’s starting to question her decisions, her standing, where she goes next. She is at the crossroads so many of us are in, and it’s what makes this film so incredibly relatable.
Much of this is down to the fact that the story is based on the real experiences and emotions of author Unsworth – who also penned the screenplay for the film. She told me, “It’s that point where you do feel like there should be some kind of milestone. There’s something about that point in your life where you really are expecting to be growing up a bit, working out what you want to do, thinking about your career and spending time with people you really want to spend time with, for women especially there’s a lot of pressure to stop doing certain things with your body and start doing other things with your body, or start preparing to,” she continued.
Those were all huge inspirations really, because personally the book came from a place where I was feeling that in my group of friends, I was over 30 and I hadn’t found the right person to be with, I wasn’t settling down, and I was still going out partying and I felt a bit judged, not by my mates they’re too nice to do that to me, but certainly by something and someone. I wanted to explore where that might come from, and challenging it and exploring it.”
Animals is not the only film to delve into this period of time either, as Frances Ha, Adult Life Skills and Say When all spring to mind – interestingly, all featuring a female protagonist too. And with increasingly more female filmmakers, now given the tools now to tell their stories, and just by proxy that many upcoming writers and directors are now classed as being ‘millennial’ – these are issues and themes we’re likely to see explored even more in future cinematic releases, and if they’re as good as Animals is, then you won’t find us complaining.