‘We the Animals’ Shows How to Learn and Find an Undiscovered Identity

Some of life’s biggest questions can only be answered within yourself. Sometimes these questions are best left answered through a journey of self discovery that attempts to arrange the chaotic unknown. But, that journey is never easy, from struggles at home to alienating yourself from those that could offer help or support. Jeremiah Zagar’s directorial debut We the Animals offers us a comprehensive—sometimes exhaustive— window into a young boy’s own journey of self discovery, how he navigates these big questions, and how they inhabit his deepest sense of self.

The films opens on three brothers —Manny, Joel, Jonah— looking out their bedroom window. Their existence is the center of the film, captivating the audience with an unrelenting view of their reality. These brothers do everything together: they entertain each other, they look out for each other, they look for food in their house together, they steal food at the mini-market together. The film is initially an outlook of poverty, dysfunctional family, sexuality, and the way they all come together to influence one’s growth. Manny, Joel, and Jonah are the kids of Ma and Pa, played by Sheila Vand and Raúl Castillo, respectively. As we watch their parents unravel, the film shifts to the youngest brother, Jonah; he becomes the heart of We the Animals. In inhabiting Jonah’s perspective, we are able to gain a look into his world, his differences within his own family, and how those differences lead to alienation from his family.

The erraticism of Ma and Pa’s relationship is white noise for all the brothers, especially Jonah; it is a common, yet vicious, cycle where the parents quarrel and then Pa leaves. The constant turbulence between Ma and Pa reaches a point where it instead becomes foundational for the toxic masculinity of Jonah’s other two brothers, Manny and Joel. In a pivotal scene where Pa returns after a prolonged absence, the boy’s play turns violent as they hit and scream at their father. The two older boys have grown to possess a Herculean attitude of harshness and viciousness, much like their Pa. Whereas Jonah, who is the only one attentive to their Ma, is gifted her softness and meek demeanour, keeping his feelings to himself. These contrasting attitudes are shown when the family goes swimming in the lake. Jonah and Ma share the inability to swim, but they are still swayed into the lake by Pa. Despite trusting him, Pa lets them go and teaches them how to swim by leaving them in the middle of the lake. A lesson in survival, one would argue, but not for them. This scene is the culmination of Ma and Pa’s erratic relationship.

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The Future is Bright (And Gay): 8 LGBTQ+ Films to Look Out For in 2018

2017 was a fantastic year for LGBTQ+ cinema. From ‘Call Me By Your Name’ to ‘A Fantastic Woman’ to ‘Battle of the Sexes’ to ‘120 BPM’, both mainstream and independent films proved that the industry is developing rapidly in terms of its approach to sexuality and gender. 2018 looks set to continue this, with a number of upcoming films featuring LGBTQ+ themes. Though we’ll have to wait and see if this year can improve on the last, the future looks bright (and rainbow) if the following films are anything to go by.

Please note that reviews linked to in this thread may contain spoilers. 

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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Chloë Grace Moretz, Forrest Goodluck, and Sasha Lane in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. © Sundance Institute

Director: Desiree Akhavan

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Jennifer Ehle, John Gallagher Jr., Forrest Goodluck

Release Date: 22nd January 2018 (Sundance Film Festival)

Premise: One of quite a few conversion therapy films this year, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ tells the story of a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) who, after being caught with the prom queen, is sent to a “de-gaying” camp by her conservative family. Though things will become much more clear after the film’s imminent Sundance debut, at the moment hopes are high – director Desiree Akhavan’s previous work includes the much treasured ‘Appropriate Behaviour’. The cast is also promising, with ‘American Honey’ breakout star Sasha Lane in her second cinematic appearance, and the always trustworthy Jennifer Ehle co-starring.

Continue reading “The Future is Bright (And Gay): 8 LGBTQ+ Films to Look Out For in 2018”