in the natural world there are the strong and the weak. the strong succeed and triumph and the weak are destroyed. occasionally the strong will protect the weak for their own interests. occasionally the weak will surmount difficult odds to survive annihilation. the job of the sentient being is to find their place within this unwritten and ever-changing hierarchy, and somehow make do, accepting one’s fate and grasping at the few opportunities that may arise along the way.
in ‘animal kingdom’ this analogy for human existence is described in a monologue (somewhat heavy-handedly from a script perspective: “here is the metaphor, do you get it?”) by detective leckie to joshua “j” cody, a young man caught by circumstance in a twisted and haphazard family criminal enterprise. the suggestion being that like him we have to find our place in often undesirable circumstances and will sometimes be required to do anything in our power to survive. lying, cheating, stealing, whatever it takes to simply keep going. when we have, as leckie is suggesting to cody, the opportunity to rest upon the protection of the strong (in this case the police), we must take it or face destruction.
the world in which joshua cody resides is relentlessly bleak. there’s nothing good, not family, not society, even love can be compromised and manipulated in spite of our best intentions. everyone is out for themselves. the violence in this world is brutal but commonplace, there are no frills to it, it’s not glorious, it’s matter of fact, ordinary, and quick. people die and the world moves on, because it has no choice. family matters but only as a means to an end.
andrew ‘pope’ cody for instance, joshua’s uncle, is the ultimate opportunist, malevolent and psychopathic. absent at the beginning of the film as he is wanted by renegade detectives and then becomes a lead suspect in the murder of two melbourne police officers (the main event of the film). he is the chaos we must avoid, the malignant cancer of society that places opportunity before us but will always bring us down in the end. we are joshua struggling to survive, we are leckie attempting to encourage goodness, and we are pope abandoning goodness for the allure of our selfish desires. and it all resides in one big suspicious, tense mess, somewhere within our consciousness.
perhaps it’s too easy to view the world so cynically, but there is much to admire about pointing out a difficult and undeniably observable truth.