94 minutes | 2018 | USA
Documentarian Jeremiah Zagar’s debut narrative feature is a fluid, dream-like adaptation of Justin Torres’ best-selling autobiographical novel about a mixed-race family with three inseparable young sons in upstate New York.
Manny (Isaiah Kristian), Joel (Josiah Gabriel), and Jonah (Evan Rosado) are tearing their way through childhood. Their mother (Sheila Vand) and father (Raúl Castillo) have a volatile relationship that makes and unmakes the family many times over, often leaving the boys fending for themselves. When they are caught raiding an allotment, a seemingly innocent engagement with their neighbour’s grandson reveals the radically different paths the boys will take. Manny and Joel are confident, street smart and eager for manhood and to grow into versions of their father. But Jonah, the youngest and sheltered within the cocoon of home, becomes increasingly aware of his desperate need to escape and begins to embrace an imagined world all his own.
Lyrical, impressionistic, arrestingly beautiful and strongly performed (with the boys all played by non-professional actors), Zagar’s heartbreaking film – part coming of age story, part sexual exploration, part magical realism – explores the animalism of young children alongside that of violent, warring adults.
Every once in a while a movie grabs you, unsuspecting, and hustles its way into your heart.
“We the Animals” is a spirited, sobering portrait of the artist as a young man using any means at his disposal — words, image