Review: We The Animals
When there are three children closely spaced, sometimes barely spaced at all, they are usually referred to by their parents as “the boys” or “the girls”. In this adaptation Justin Torres’ semi-autobiographical novel, We The Animals, the brothers are “the animals”. Ma (Sheila Vand) and Paps (Raúl Castillo) aren’t paying too much attention to their three boys here, and Manny, Joel and Jonah misbehave all over their upstate New York town. Their parents work too much, fight too much and fu—frolic, lets say frolic, a lot.
We see the family through the eyes of 10-year-old Jonah (Evan Rosado). Director Jeremiah Zagar brings us his perspective – or lack of it – brilliantly. We see what Jonah sees, and the questions he has about his parents’ very questionable behavior, his future, his brothers, his sexuality, what is fantasy and what is reality when reality is so hard to digest.
Here’s the tricky bit, or might be – those fantasies are presented to us as animation. At night, Jonah crawls under his bed with a flashlight to create pencilled illustrations that come to life and can be quite disturbing. Whether or not these sequences take you out of the mood of the piece is up to you, as We The Animals is all about mood and feeling. The cinematography by Zak Mulligan puts the brothers, played by newcomers who function like siblings, in the same frame quite a bit, reminding us that to their distracted parents, and to their still forming selves, they are a unit. His camera follows them on adventures in a style very knowing of childhood, reminding me of The Florida Project.
We the Animals – A Sundance award winner
We the Animals is stylized and sometimes dreamlike, so not for everyone, but go in open minded and it will leave you feeling in the mind of a child, as confusing and chaotic, as playful and adventurous as it can be.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.