We The Animals
Raul Castillo, Josiah Gabriel, Isaiah Kristian, Sheila Vand
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Despite some truly unique sequences, We The Animals is largely uneven.
The animals in We The Animals aren’t quite that – they’re rambunctious brothers Manny, Joel and Jonah. Three Puerto Rican boys living in a decrepit house in Upstate New York, whose mixed-marriage parents are more interested in arguing with each other than worrying about their offspring.
This leaves the three siblings to fend for themselves – steal food, argue, fight, grow up. All as they watch their father (Raul Castillo) beat their mother (Sheila Vand), leave her, and lose his job – as the fabric of their childhood slowly unravels, and they find themselves gradually going separate ways.
Based on the 2011 novel by American fiction author Justin Torres, the film, which won the Sundance NEXT Innovator Award, has exciting moments. A scene of the three kids, secretly watching their parents through a door cuts to the essence of childhood, which nothing can rupture.
What audiences witness as the film transpires, is the ending of that innocence, as the reality of the world starts to become more apparent to the three boys.
Despite some truly unique sequences, We The Animals is largely uneven. The first half of the film is so frustratingly devoid of action, it feels like purely a set up to the second half.
Directed by documentary maker Jeremiah Zagar (In A Dream, Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart) in his narrative feature debut, the film has a dreamy, handheld quality.
Shots from the perspective of the kids’ eyes are punctuated by handheld sketches and drawings which pour over the screen, giving the film a naturalistic feel.
Much of this comes from the dynamic, almost home video recording shots of cinematographer Zak Mulligan (Bleeding Heart), soundtracked to the music of indie act The Books, and its founder Nick Zammuto, who composes the score.
Interesting on occasion but unfortunately mostly inconsistent, We The Animals is a flawed, bumpy contemplation on childhood and growing up.