Natalya Pavlenkova gives a wonderful performance in the story of a middle-aged woman who grows a tail, but the movie around her merely coasts along on its surface weirdness
There’s nothing special about Natasha (Pavlenkova), the introverted, middle-aged protagonist in Ivan Tverdovskiy's Zoology; nothing, that is, except for the long, fleshy tail that suddenly sprouts from the base of her spine. The appearance of such a deformity might make some women retreat even further into their shell, but instead it seems to give Natasha a new lease of life. She overhauls her drab wardrobe, begins drinking and dancing, and she even enters into a relationship with the young radiologist who examines her.
Pavlenkova is wonderful as she charts the transformation in Natasha’s personality, and her witty and touching performance holds Zoology together whenever the director seems unsure about where exactly he’s taking his bizarre fable. The metaphorical import of the tail itself often feels a little fuzzy, and instead of exploring the many themes it touches upon, or deepening our understanding of Natasha, Tverdovskiy too often seems happy to coast along on the surface weirdness of his movie, ending with a cruel coldness that is both predictable and dispiriting.
Released by Arrow Film