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Review: Karen Gillan takes a stark turn in dark indie ‘All Creatures Here Below’

Review: Karen Gillan takes a stark turn in dark indie ‘All Creatures Here Below’
Karen Gillan and David Dastmalchian in the movie "All Creatures Here Below." (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Two actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe go dark and gritty in the indie drama “All Creatures Here Below.” Writer and star David Dastmalchian (“Ant-Man”) re-teams with frequent collaborator, director Collin Schiffli, for this tale of troubled lovers on the run co-starring Karen Gillan (“Avengers: Endgame”).

Gensan (Dastmalchian) and Ruby (Gillan) live a tenuous life on the margins of society in L.A. Their last connections to a stable life are severed when they both lose their jobs, and revert to old habits and coping mechanisms. Gensan gambles his last paycheck on a cockfight that turns violent, and when he picks up Ruby to skip town, she has the neighbor’s crying baby in tow. And yet, that impossible situation doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the darkness that this film carefully uncovers.

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There’s an unsettling sense of strangeness to their relationship. The childlike Ruby doesn’t seem quite right, and Gensan’s undying dedication to her in this crisis starts to seem odd. We get to see moments of their happiness — snatches of delusional domesticity — before the script slowly parcels out the devastating truth with expertly efficient storytelling.

The story takes some unbelievably tragic twists and turns, and along the way, Dastmalchian unfolds a riveting performance, aided by Schiffli’s beautiful and unobtrusive style. Shockingly, he is able to make you empathize with Gensan’s twisted actions in the name of mercy, letting the audience into the bizarre reality in which he and Ruby exist. It’s a stark dramatic turn for these stars, and Dastmalchian proves to be a remarkable screenwriter to watch.

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‘All Creatures Here Below’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Starts May 17, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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