Film4 Summer Screen: Interview with Bart Layton, writer/director of American Animals

Season 4, Episode 1,  Aug 20, 2018, 10:35 AM

An interview with writer/director Bart Layton ahead of the UK premiere of American Animals, a true-crime tale full of high tension, bold style, and black humour.

A group of four students come together in classic heist movie fashion (think Reservoir Dogs, because that's what they do) to steal some of the world's rarest books from the special collections room of their college library. Quite why they decided to do this, or why they these juvenile amateur criminals thought they were capable of pulling it off, are just some of the deeper currents that run through this irrepressible thriller that may ostensibly conform to crime film conventions but has a way of telling a story that is very much all its own.

American Animals asserts both that “This is” and “This is Not Based on a True Story” right from the opening titles, making it very clear that doubt is going to play a very big part in what's to come. Credit writer-director Bart Layton with the high-wire narrative risks, his skill as a documentarian providing an unexpected extra level to the film that really increases its emotional power.

What really gives the action its zest and freshness are the performances from the four young leads – mischievous looking star Evan Peters (Quicksilver in the X-Men franchise and a series regular in American Horror Story), the wonderful Irish actor Barry Keoghan (unforgettable in both Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Blake Jenner (Supergirl and The Edge of Seventeen) and Jared Abrahamson. Each member of the group is distinctive in their own right, but the best scenes are when they come together as a perfectly imperfect gang of thieves.

The UK premiere of American Animals is at Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House on 22 Aug 2018.