The Movie Waffler New Release Review - WE THE ANIMALS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - WE THE ANIMALS

we the animals review
Amid a troubled home life, a young boy struggles with his emerging sexuality.

Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: Jeremiah Zagar

Starring: Evan Rosado, Raรบl Castillo, Sheila Vand, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Gabriel

we the animals poster

Set in a secluded locale literally on the other side of the tracks, We the Animals is director Jeremiah Zagar’s first feature film. Adapting the Justin Torres novel of the same name, Zagar and his co-writer Daniel Kitrosser attempt to bring the words of this coming-of-age story to life with their own cinematic take on the tale.

we the animals review

The movie is centred around Evan Rosado’s ever imaginative Jonah and his struggling suburban based family. With the story taking place in what appears to be some-time between the late '80s and early '90s, Jonah is the youngest of three brothers and acts as the film’s intermittent narrator. He depicts the challenges he faces through a hidden journal. In it, and through emotive illustrations in particular, Jonah entrusts his thoughts, his complicated family relationships, and his dreams. Throughout the film, he not only struggles with his home-life situation - Jonah has a father who beats his mother and two older brothers who are occasionally overly aggressive - but also with his sexuality. By relying on his dependable journal, Jonah seeks to navigate life’s trials and tribulations in his own, distinctive fashion, which begins to put him at odds with those he holds dear.

With what appears to be an engaging plot aside, however, We the Animals proves disappointing. From the beginning of the film, the frantic nature of erratic camera shots combined with passages of chaotic dialogue create a truly hectic opening. While it is highly probable that Zagar attempted to create a memorable introductory sequence, the movie, put simply, is difficult to follow. The staccato opening sequence acts not as an efficient introduction to the characters nor their situation, but more as a bewildering and abrupt beginning to the feature. That said, a relative structure to the story seems to begin to take shape as the movie pushes on. Just as it seems to get going, however, We the Animals returns to its perplexing and bizarre form of before, whereby all momentum of the storytelling is squandered; this frustrating pattern continues throughout the remainder of the film.

we the animals review

As already mentioned, the flick revolves around Jonah and, in particular, his drawings in his journal. They become the backbone of the film - another reason why We the Animals loses its potential intrigue. Rarely do quirky ideas of films of such ilk succeed, and while the idea of telling this coming of age story through the eyes of a child’s drawings may have the potential to be a creative masterpiece, in this case, they merely act as yet another distraction and in fact deterrent to the story being effectively told. As a consequence of Jonah’s drawings repeatedly and suddenly re-appearing, they become acted out through animation, and these odd scenes jar and even blight the otherwise engaging plot.

Moreover, the film’s lack of characterisation is yet another disappointing aspect of We the Animals. Although Jonah is the supposed main focus of the movie, the little to no development of other significant characters makes it almost impossible to really invest in the plot or its torchbearers. Even then, while Rosado does a fine job with what he was given, Jonah as a protagonist is not that much better. His lack of dialogue and personality really hinders his progression as an individual; a fault which yet again falls with the writers.

we the animals review

Consequently, Zagar’s unnecessarily edgy and obtuse We the Animals isn’t so much of an intriguing indie as it is a forgettable flop. While this coming of age drama has elements of potential, the lack of character development, the rogue and often frustrating sequences and the sheer lack of structure make this film unpalatable, as it leaves a bitter taste of what could have been.

We the Animals is in UK/ROI cinemas June 14th.

2019 movie reviews