"Stroking an Animal" Source: Breaking Glass Pictures

Review: 'Stroking an Animal' a Quizzical Probe into an Unlikely Threesome

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Writer-director Ángel Filgueira's "Stroking an Animal" ("Cando toco un animal") introduces us, in languid fashion, to Ada (Ángela Ríos) and Mariña (Lidia Veiga) as they welcome a new day with a passionate bout of lovemaking. The couple are out in nature, on a camping trip; they joyfully embrace everything this entails, frolicking in the water and sun as only young lovers can do.

But it turns out they aren't alone. Tomás (Xulio Besteiro) is on the camping trip, too, and he effortlessly joins in on the fun. It's all innocent enough, though in a subsequent scene, when the three meet again at a night club and one of the women calls Tomás "ex," you start to get a hint that more complicated crosscurrents might be at work beneath the placid surface.

Indeed, a drunken make-out session including all of them, even though cut short, advances things toward the inevitable: a threesome that soon turns into a months-long adventure in pushing sexual and relationship boundaries. Summer, autumn, summer again; the seasons pass by and Mariña, who turns out to be a writer, reflects poetically on the situation's moods, as well as its twists and turns. Dragonflies, she notes, are born in the water, but the slightest drop in their wings will make it impossible for them to fly.

As a metaphor it's inviting, but not elucidating. When Tomás and Ada start having hookups on their own (including one caught on film in what looks like unsimulated sex), Mariña, naturally, starts to wonder if she will still have a place in the new order of things. For a time it looks as though "Stroking an Animal" is going to go the "Passages" route, with an indecisive (and, perhaps, selfish) lover pursuing her own interests to the detriment of everyone else and smoking emotional wreckage strewn at the end, but the movie has other things in mind and it's not long before, like that dragonfly, it gracefully lifts off once again.

The other central metaphor – seasonal change, the rhythm of human life and its ever-changing circumstances and emotional bonds that wax and wane – is similarly omnipresent, but undefined. This could be maddening; it could also make the movie just shapeless enough to allow you to make your own mind up about the story and Filgueira's intentions. Is this a relationship going through a series of unique configurations with no set destination? Or is Tomás (or someone else, or a series of someone elses) a recurring third party in an on-and-off throuple?

The film's brief run time (not much more than an hour) and long scenes don't give us a lot of opportunity to get to know these characters or grasp the whole context, and that feels deliberate. Along those same lines, the film's airy uncertainties feel calibrated. Perhaps, as with love, what you take away from "Stroking an Animal" depends largely on what you brought with you, and how much you invested into it.

"Stroking an Animal" streams on digital platforms January 9.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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