Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvor Menuez share a sensual love scene in "My Animal." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Jan. 28 (UPI) -- My Animal, which premiered at the Sundance Film Fesitval, is a sexy werewolf love story. The emphasis is more on the romance but it still delivers on both genres.
Heather (Bobbi Salvor Menuez) transforms into a werewolf one night while watching TV. After attacking her mother, Patti (Heidi von Palleske), Heather's family manages her special needs every full moon.
Heather practices her skills as a hockey goalie and meets figure skater Jonine (Amandla Stenberg), or Jonny for short, at the rink. Heather discovers her attraction to Jonny while managing her transformations.
My Animal demonstrates the procedure Heather's father, Henry (Stephen McHattie), developed for her. Heather chains herself in her bedroom before midnight the night of the full moon to prevent her from getting out.
One night, Heather goes out with Jonny and friends. They keep her out too late and there are some harrowing shots of Heather running through the snow trying to get home before midnight.
Other than that, though, My Animal completely focuses on Heather and Jonny's relationship. The midnight deadline is always looming but Heather doesn't have to wolf out every 10 minute to know what's at stake.
A fantasy sex scene with an egg is sensuous, all red light with Menuez and Stenberg's bodies in a dark void. Their actual love scene is even more so.
Lycanthropy has been used as a valid metaphor in past films. Ginger Snaps equated werewolf transformation with puberty. Films like American Werewolf in London and Wolf likened animal instincts to sexual urges.
My Animal is completely sex positive and celebrates the LGBTQ love. Heather even practices self-love before she finds a partner in Jonny.
My Animal can be a little slow and perhaps a tad too long. It is a slow burn that is building to a climax, but could maybe hasten its step by a few minutes.
Throughout the exploration of sex and transformations, My Animal boasts strikingly effective lighting. Not only in the love scenes, but dialogue scenes light the actors in deep shadows, and many backlit shots create beautiful silhouettes.
The film's score harkens back to the '80s movie themes of John Carpenter. Modern synth rock by bands like Boy Harsher complement that vibe.
When My Animal reaches viewers outside of Sundance, it's definitely going to speak to young people who feel confined but know who they are. Heather finds she can no longer placate a family or society that fears her and owns her raw power.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.