We the Animals 3.0 stars

We the Animals movie poster

Why does beautiful boy Jonah hide under his bed at night to do his writing and drawing? Let’s see now. He’s a sensitive soul growing up in exile — macho Dad is of Puerto Rican extraction and vulnerable Mom is a white girl from Brooklyn, but the bunch of them are stuck out in the sticks. As Mom explains, once Pops got her pregnant, “there was no way we could stay.” It’s implied that she was underage, and the couple is very free about showing…affection in front of their three young sons. But despite the love on display, Dad gets violent and leaves. Mom gets needy, asking Jonah to stay her little boy forever. The boy and his brothers have to rely on each other to survive, and their adventures lead them to a VHS porn session in the basement of a friendly teen neighbor, a compilation that includes some man-on-man action. (Director Jeremiah Zagar nails the depiction of fervid nascent male sexuality, overwhelming and uncomfortable.) When Dad comes back, he wants “more of us, more of her, more family” — the film is dotted with these bits, dreamily remembered trios to match the dreamily shot landscapes and happy moments, which in turn contrast with the aggressively doodled animations that illustrate Jonah’s agitated POV. The conclusion is certain enough to be practically foregone, and if what leads up to it is aggressively arty, it’s also artful and frank, a rare combination. 2018.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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