We the Animals
Take 2017’s wildly overrated The Florida Project, substitute older, more mature child actors, but remove the grounding professional presence of Willem Dafoe and you’ve got something close to We the Animals.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Justin Torres, the quasi-accomplished feature-length narrative debut of documentary and short film specialist Jeremiah Zagar follows three young rural New York brothers’ struggles under their flaky white mother (Sheila Vand, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) and abusive Puerto Rican father (Raúl Castillo, HBO’s Looking).
Centering on the youngest boy — sensitive, potentially repressed 10-year-old Jonah (Evan Rosado) — the film delves into the child’s mind through engaging yet infrequent animated renderings of sketches from his notebook, suggesting a live-action adaptation may not be the material’s best cinematic form.
Additional dream imagery, including an underwater metaphor that gradually grows tiresome, and some overlaps with the trio of male siblings in The Tree of Life and the protagonist of Moonlight further hint at Zagar’s imaginative potential, but none of the above can overcome the drudgery of the family’s depressing existence.
Grade: C. Rated R. Starts Sept. 21 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: The Orchard)