Jeremiah Zagar’s drenching, wrenching dream of childhood, “We the Animals,” adapted from Justin Torres’ novel about three Puerto Rican boys coming of age, is both familiar and strange, a newly dreamt vision of archetypal passage. Subjective use of animated sequences to reflect a boy’s inner life augments the richly imagined, boldly photographed passage of time. From Sundance, Variety’s Peter DeBruge esteemed “Animals” as “a puertorriqueño ‘Moonlight,’” a comparison both fair and unfair: Zagar and Barry Jenkins both seek ravishing subjectivity in visual and aural style to relay intense emotion. “Moonlight” feels very new in both its story and its telling, where “We The Animals” feels very rich in investigating and illuminating material of familiar contour. (The moods of Malick hover, too.) Not to diminish Zagar’s accomplishment at all: lowered expectations allow a proper descent into the pleasures, surprises and eruptions in store in this gentle fugue and its pain and joy. 94m. (Ray Pride)
“We the Animals” is now playing at River East and Landmark Renaissance.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.