Directed by Jeremiah Zagar
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Justin Torres, We The Animals is a thoughtful coming-of-age drama that won’t leave you indifferent.
Having the rural upstate New York as a backdrop, the story is told from the perspective of 10-year-old Jonah (Evan Rosado), the youngest of three brothers who become victims of the volatile relationship of their parents, a white mother (Sheila Vand) and a Puerto Rican father (Raúl Castillo), who move apart several times after episodes of domestic violence. Growing up with hunger - a distinguished scene depicts them feeding themselves with soy sauce - and lack of supervision, these kids spend most of their time in the streets, especially whenever the tense atmosphere in the household deteriorates.
However, Jonah reveals a quite different posture when compared to his brothers. He is far more sensitive and truly cares about his mother, who easily and repeatedly plunges into depression, a predicament that forces her to stay in bed and stop working. The most precious thing for the boy is a journal he conceals under the mattress. He scribbles it, expressing fragments of his quotidian life and emotional states through artistic drawings that often gain movement in his imagination and on the screen.
Mounted with arresting visuals and dream-like tones by documentarian Jeremiah Zagar, We The Animals is a strong personal statement sustained by an absorbing narrative. This most satisfying rendering of a complex family environment and self-discovery carries a desolate beauty of its own that haunts us all.