2 October 2018 | paul-allaer
Coming-of-age of a different kind
"We The Animals" (2018 release; 94 min.) brings the story of three brothers somewhere in rural New York. As the movie opens, we see the three boys Manny, Joel and Jonah (aged 10-12 or thereabouts) roaming the woods near their house. We also get to know their parents (simply referred to as "ma" and "paps"), with paps being rather volatile and short-tempered. Jonah, the youngest of the three brothers, keeps a diary where he writes and draws as he absorbs what is going on around him. Then one day, after the family goes out swimming in a nearby river, ma and paps get into a terrible fight... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the big screen adaptation of the book of of the same name by Justin Torres. I have not read the book and hence cannot comment how close the film remains to the book. But I can tell you that this movie is quite the experience. Directed by (for me unknown) Jeremiah Zagar, the movie has a dream-like feel to it, helped in part because the movie accentuates the perspective of Jonah, the youngest of the brothers who turns 10 ("you're not 10, you'll always be 9, and today you are 9 plus 1", ma tells him). The casting of the three young boys is absolutely fantastic (film debut for all three of them). As the movie progresses, the drawings play a bigger role, and take on a life of their own (literally). I found it all very engaging. There are a lot of coming-of-age movies out there, but this is one of a different kind, that's for sure. If there is one element of the film that I can be critical about, it's that much of the movie is filmed with handheld cameras and in extreme close-ups, which took me a while to get used to.
"We The Animals" premiered at this year's Sundance film festival to great acclaim, and it finally opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended dismally (3 people, including myself), although the gorgeous and warm weather probably had something to do with that. If you are in the mood for a coming-of-age movie that is of a different kind, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.