We the Animals
Amidst the wild woods of upstate New York, a quiet boy named Jonah bounces around town with his badly behaved brothers, causing mischief and, in calmer moments, sketching vivid imaginary worlds with a pen and a pad of paper. Things appear idyllic at home until his parents’ bickering becomes physical and a particularly bruising fight turns Jonah’s world a few shades darker than before. From this point on, We the Animals becomes a lyrical and deeply felt journey into a child’s development from observant boy to brooding pre-teen. Beyond his parents’ issues, Jonah senses in his neighbor’s teenage son a budding queer identity that might match his own: one that he knows is at odds with the rough, heteronormative mindset of his father (a terrific Raúl Castillo, Looking, Frameline40) and his struggling working-class town.
Directed with aplomb by acclaimed filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar (Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart) in his first foray into narrative cinema, We the Animals, adapted from Justin Torres’ acclaimed book of the same name, won the Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT Innovator Award (shared with Night Comes On, which is also screening at Frameline42) and has been likened by top critics as this year’s answer to Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-winning Moonlight.
Complex and teeming with insight and empathy, Zagar’s film adds new dimension to the coming-of-age genre and ranks easily as one of the most exciting and hotly anticipated American independent films of 2018.
— HARRY VAUGHN