SXSW Film Review: Petting Zoo

An unplanned pregnancy throws a teen's life off course

In Micah Magee’s feature-film debut, a high school graduate must make some adult decisions when life throws her a succession of curve balls that threaten to narrow her choices and upend her already tenuous circumstances.

Layla (Devon Keller) goes to school in San Antonio and lives with her grandmother on the lower spectrum of the working class, that is when she’s not crashing at her boyfriend Danny’s ramshackle drug den. But she’s no burnout. An honors student who just got a scholarship to UT-Austin, Layla is poised to fly the coop. So when she finds out she’s pregnant, it looks like all bets are off. Shunned and shamed by her conservative parents and surrounded by ne’er-do-well relatives and friends, she ends up working at a Denny’s.

It may read like a familiar tale, one you’ve seen a few times before. But the devil’s in the details and it’s to the film’s credit that Petting Zoo gets those details right every single time. Whether it’s the spot-on, nonsensical conversations of stoners sprawled across a living room; the soul-sucking, endless routine of working in a crappy diner; or an intimate, cathartic moment cuddling with a cat, Magee’s direction illuminates both the hope and the drudgery that cumulatively amass as we make decisions that irrevocably alter our lives, whether we realize it or not. Reminiscent of the films of Victor Nuñez and the early works of Allison Anders, Petting Zoo is an indie that transcends whatever baggage you might associate with that word.


Petting Zoo

Visions
Thursday, March 19, 1:15pm, Topfer


Keep up with all our SXSW Film coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw/film.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. For scheduling on the go, here's a SXSW Film Pocket Guide, which includes the handy Film Grid. Sign up for our South-by-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters/ for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest Tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

READ MORE
More SXSW Film
Unleashing the <i>Hounds of Love</i>
Unleashing the Hounds of Love
Director Ben Young on his serial-killer couple drama

Richard Whittaker, May 12, 2017

Ben Wheatley  Catches <i>Free Fire</i>
Ben Wheatley Catches Free Fire
Director on making his U.S. action debut

Richard Whittaker, April 21, 2017

More by Josh Kupecki
Baywatch
Some people stand in the darkness ...

May 26, 2017

My Year With <i>Baywatch</i>
My Year With Baywatch
To protect and surf

May 19, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW Film, SXSW Film 2015, Petting Zoo, Micah Magee, Devon Keller

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)