A beautifully photographed, captivating expression of hardscrabble family life and a sensitive boy’s growing self-awareness, this inspired adaptation of a remarkable book evokes memory and imagination in equal effect.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
“Shot on 16mm, We the Animals has an easy-on-the-eye, dappled glow, well-suited to the idea of looking back in time, as Zagar and Daniel Kitrosser adapt Justin Torres’ novel about growing up in a working-class family in upstate New York. The story is told from the point of view of Jonah (Evan Rosado), who forms a unit with his two brothers Joel and Manny. Often tangled together on the bed they share, Jonah is, right from the outset, starting to pull away from the other pair, enjoying a secret that's all his own, a diary full of illustrations that is under the bed.
He writes in it at night, once his brothers are asleep, an outlet for feverish outpourings of emotion that he could never share with them or his Ma and Paps. Theirs is a household where emotions rule, sometimes to the family’s detriment – and they also dominate Zagar’s film, which never follows more than the loosest of narratives. Fluid camerawork from Zak Mulligan, interspersed with elements from Jonah’s diary animated by Mark Samsonovich and magic realist imaginings, immerse us both in the boy's mindset and family life.” — Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film
“This adaptation of Justin Torres’s novel about the troubles of a Puerto Rican family in upstate New York is energized by a raucous, youthful vigor right from the jump... It’s an expressionistic film, but one in which that approach makes narrative sense – this is, after all, a story told from the perspective of a youngest child who often has to piece things together on his own… Zagar has a gift for capturing a character’s essence in an image or two, via simple compositions occasionally augmented by spellbinding snatches of animation. And he imbues the entire enterprise with a fascinating feeling of maybe-memory. It’s either set in the past, or in a place where time stopped, and both approaches play.” — Jason Bailey, Village Voice