Based on the novel by Justin Torres’ and winner of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival Innovator Award, We The Animals is a visceral coming of age story set against a background of working class family and racial inequality.
Told told through the imagination of the youngest of three siblings, Jonah (Evan Rosado), creates his own fantastical world in which childlike perspectives, and a heavy-dose of nostalgia are sharply juxtaposed against the everyday realties of growing up in a dysfunctional family.
The central performances from the three first-time child actors are impressive. Director, Jeremiah Zagar’s, visual style is both striking and daring. And, despite the subject matter, the film oozes warmth and charm.
However, there’s something depressingly voyeuristic about the way the working class subject matter is depicted. Jonah’s life—framed as somehow more ‘real’ for its raw brutality —seems to be pitched at an audience emotionally and intellectually distanced from the subject matter. Look at these people, the film seems to say, look at how they live: they’re just animals in a zoo. Which is a shame because this is a fine drama that deserves much a wider and more diverse audience than it will probably get.