American Animal Rotten Tomatoes

American Animal is a 2011 independent film directed by Matt D’Elia. The film tells the story of Jimmy, a delusional and eccentric man who believes he is a nocturnal creature, living in a world of his own creation. American Animal received mixed reviews upon its release, with critics praising its unique style and D’Elia’s performance, while others found it pretentious and self-indulgent. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of American Animal, including its plot, performances, visual style, and overall impact.


The plot of American Animal revolves around Jimmy, played by Matt D’Elia himself, who lives in a small apartment with his best friend James (Brendan Fletcher). Jimmy is an eccentric character who spends his days in a haze of drugs and alcohol, while also indulging in his delusions of being a nocturnal creature. As the film progresses, Jimmy’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, leading to a series of surreal and often disturbing events.

The narrative of American Animal is intentionally fragmented and nonlinear, mirroring Jimmy’s fractured state of mind. This unconventional storytelling approach may prove challenging for some viewers, as it requires them to piece together the various elements of the plot. However, it also allows for a deeper exploration of Jimmy’s psyche and the themes of isolation and self-destruction.


Matt D’Elia delivers a captivating performance as Jimmy, fully embodying the character’s manic energy and inner turmoil. His portrayal is both mesmerizing and unsettling, as he effortlessly transitions between moments of vulnerability and explosive rage. D’Elia’s commitment to the role is commendable, and his performance serves as the film’s driving force.

Brendan Fletcher also shines as James, Jimmy’s loyal but increasingly concerned friend. Fletcher brings a grounded and sympathetic presence to the film, providing a necessary counterbalance to D’Elia’s more erratic performance. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, and their dynamic adds depth to the complex relationship at the heart of the story.

Visual Style

One of the most striking aspects of American Animal is its visually inventive style. The film is shot entirely in black and white, which enhances its surreal and dreamlike atmosphere. The monochromatic palette serves as a visual representation of Jimmy’s distorted perception of reality, further immersing the audience in his world.

Director Matt D’Elia demonstrates a keen eye for composition and framing, utilizing unconventional camera angles and long takes to create a sense of unease. The use of lighting and shadows adds to the film’s overall mood, evoking a sense of mystery and darkness. These visual choices contribute to the film’s unique aesthetic and help to elevate its thematic exploration.


American Animal is a polarizing film that elicits strong reactions from viewers. Its unconventional narrative structure and experimental style may alienate some audiences who prefer more traditional storytelling. However, for those willing to engage with its challenging themes and embrace its idiosyncrasies, the film offers a thought-provoking and immersive experience.

The exploration of mental illness, identity, and the human condition in American Animal is both compelling and unsettling. It forces viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about the nature of existence and the fragility of the human mind. While not without its flaws, the film’s ambition and audacity cannot be denied.


American Animal is a visually striking and thematically ambitious film that delves into the psyche of its troubled protagonist. Matt D’Elia’s performance as Jimmy is captivating, and his direction showcases a unique visual style. While the film may not be for everyone, its exploration of mental illness and existential themes offers a thought-provoking experience for those willing to embrace its unconventional approach. American Animal is a testament to the power of independent cinema and the willingness of filmmakers to push boundaries and challenge audiences.

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