What can we expect from a life that doesn’t give us much opportunities but rather hits even harder as soon as it can such that there’s no way up any time soon? “We the Animals” stunningly highlights the brutality of life when it finds perfect victims to play with, like a toy. It takes one family and does everything it wishes until the mind goes mad. And when there’s no sanity left, all what you see is the semblance of a life no one should ever go through…
“We the Animals” is a coming-of-age story of three boys, Manny, Joel and Jonah who live with their Paps and Ma beyond the poverty. While Manny and Joel are slowly turning into a sad version of their father, Jonah shapes a new personality for himself that will slowly enter a conflicting path of his present and possible future, that might be as dark as it is right now. But the young boy wants only one thing – a complete, happy, and fulfilled family. The whole problem is that the family cannot provide what Jonah wants, at least not what lay in his innocent mind.
Paps physically abuses Ma. As he is ready again to depart from home, it’s Jonah’s birthday he is about to celebrate tomorrow. But when tomorrow comes, they find their mother beaten up in bed, tired, hungry but unwilling to leave the only place where she can feel like doing nothing. Jonah and his two brothers go out to find food only to find themselves in the yard of an old man, who first gets angry at hem, but shortly after offers them food. It is then when they meet the young neighbor who introduces the world of adult movies to the little boys. Manny and Joel are happy enough to watch that but not Jonah, whose mind continues its race against all odds.
Based on Justin Torres’ novel, co-written by Daniel Kitrosser and Jeremiah Zagar, who also directed it, “We the Animals” is a sad portrayal of a family’s struggle who still manage to retain their love. But while love is not capable of feeding or bringing money home, it’s Paps who at some point loses his job due to bringing his children to his workplace. The scene when he begins digging the hole, the viewer will be anxious to learn why the man who just lost his job is doing this. And of course while we are prepared for the worst, the outcome is far worse than what a singular scene could express.
As for the performances from Raul Castillo (Paps), Josiah Gabriel (Joel), Isaiah Kristian (Manny), Sheila Vand (Ma) and Evan Rosado as Jonah solidifies the strength and the importance of the characters they portrayed to be captured in exact same way they did. Ma or Paps are not likable characters. But you also don’t blame them for the fall off in their existence who do a little to change that. Isaiah Kristian’s Manny or Josiah Gabriel’s Joel are what we all must refer to if we don’t want our children to become like them. But again, it’s not their fault for becoming who they are. Unfortunately, it’s life that leaves them with no choice but lead the future in a way they can picture.
But Jonah is a whole different story, as if he’s from a different planet. All what he sees around does not seem to affect him at all. Is it all because of his desire to protect himself from going crazy? But he just turned ten, which means, he has a long life ahead to realize or to relive the moments that forced him to distance himself from. And that, my dear reader, is the beauty of the film when you have enough room for imagination. Because “We the Animals” has nothing pleasant to offer in terms of the situation you find its protagonists. But that, surely, should be the least of our concerns because life is not all rainbows and butterflies.
In conclusion, the film had lots of potential and all of it was being completely unleashed by the filmmaker. That said, “We the Animals” reaches the highest point where we all are forced to look at ourselves or just around for a second to ask one simple question: “How much do we know about the life of others? How much do we know about suffering? How much do we know about children that live in the house or in a family that would bring them less acknowledgment in life, even less than the streets if they would choose to live on there? So if you’re looking for a decent material or just shock therapy, “We the Animals” should be your first choice as it, trust me, will turn every single viewer’s world upside down. And when it will bring it back, it will never be the same. I don’t think so.