All Creatures Here Below sees two people returning to the one place that has been the source of traumatic memories plaguing them over the years.
There’s a few things going on here. Gensan (David Dastmalchian) and Ruby (Karen Gillan) are living in poverty in Los Angeles. Ruby also wants a family–this is easier said than done. When Gensan loses his job, he turns to gambling as a way of making ends meet. Communication may be key here but Ruby doesn’t have a cell phone and learns this from Gensan’s boss (David Koechner). Anyway, neither one of them are making good choices here. They’re running from the law while making the types of horrible choices that will make a viewer drop audible F bombs while viewing. For better or worse, the two of them are returning home to Kansas City. It’s not so much a choice at this point. While Kansas City may bring back traumatic memories, it may bring them what they’re looking for.
At some point in Kansas City, we get the backstory that brings new information to light. I’m no psychologist but it does help to explain why these two–especially Ruby–act the way that they do. Karen Gillan plays Ruby in a way that we haven’t seen her in the Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers films. It’s a common thing for actors to take on challenging roles that they’ve never done before. This comes off as that type of performance with an expansion of her acting range. Between this film and The Party’s Just Beginning–which has its own flaws–the Scottish actress is more than Nebula. Don’t forget her work as Daisy in Paul Scheer’s genius police procedural spoof NTSF:SD:SUV.
It’s honestly a struggle in watching the first two acts while building up to the third act. This isn’t to say that the two leads don’t have chemistry on screen because they do. The film shines a light on an area of society that so frequently gets ignored on screen. At least in mainstream cinema, we don’t really see these kind of stories being told. We don’t even have to like Gensan and Ruby–neither are likable characters–we just have to say that we see them. If they had only grown up in a better environment, maybe things might be different.
There are some revelations during the third act that certainly paint the film in a new light. You might find yourself asking some more questions. Unfortunately, the film comes to an end before some of these questions can ever be answered.
All Creatures Here Below slowly takes its time but shines a light on an area of society that we tend to ignore.
DIRECTOR: Collin Schiffli
SCREENWRITER: David Dastmalchian
CAST: David Dastmalchian, Karen Gillan, David Koechner, Jennifer Morrison, Richard Cabral, and John Doe
Samuel Goldwyn Films opens All Creatures Here Below in theaters and VOD on May 17, 2019. Grade: 3.5/5