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We The Animals

“For the law of sin is that brute force of habit whereby the mind is dragged along and held fast against its will, and deservedly so because it slipped into the habit willingly.”

[St. Augustine]

The division of innocence and the corruption of youth wrought by the failure of parents and economic insecurity; here, in the works of Jeremiah Zagar, we see a dazzling array of impeccable editing and sound mixing to bring an immensely profound work in child development. Malick-esque at its core, there is an almost immeasurable depth of beauty being displayed in the inner workings of a finely crafted screenplay matched by the competence of direction and sound.

We The Animals is the B-Side of Tree Of Life. Escaping grace, here is a film about the natural onset of sin and the moral desolation when unbridled human proclivity meets the imprisoned lights of starvation. “Prioritiz[ing] mood and moment over a more traditional story structure,” the film is textured in subtleties. We find three brothers, at one time unimpeachable in their bondage, beginning to slide apart as their parents  pave the direction through their own violence and surrender. While the mother struggles to retain her semblance of normalcy, she is too often overcome by the blistering forces of men’s all too human directions. Without their parents, the boys have only each other, which proves insufficient as their natural ends find only mired and sordid spaces for self-expression. Jeannette Catsoulis (NY Times) writes:

Fragile yet resilient, “We the Animals” has an elemental quality that’s hugely endearing, using air and water and the deep, damp earth to fashion a dreamworld where big changes occur in small, sometimes symbolic ways. Cocooned in this limbo, Jonah puzzles over adult behavior and the incipient sexuality that will finally cleave him from his brothers. Their path to manhood suddenly looks nothing like his own.

Where the Kings of Summer finds the bridging of friendship, in We The Animals we find the proverbial burning therein — we become strangers to ourselves as we become communities of exclusion to others. Noah, the young boy (fittingly named) struggles to escape the domestic creation of Nineveh, heads “West” to greener fields of tomorrow in a state of sexual confusion and rebellion in hopes that his drawing-memories could be found in the company of others. As Eric Kohn (IndieWire) rightly notes:

Each moment contributes to his developing perceptions of the world — telling glances and a ruminative voiceover transforms the movie into a poetic variation on the coming-of-age formula less fixated on exposition than the haunting beauty of growing up.

There is a parallel structure of melancholy driving this film: one based on the realization that time and nature re-invents the human core and our relation to one another. And, the second, based on the reoccupying respite that life offers in the midst of turmoil by way of momentary escapes.

There is much more to discuss: for now, go see the film and consider it for yourself.

RATING: B

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