“We the Animals”: Portrait of the Wild Young Artist

In We the Animals, Jonah’s (Evan Rosado) words in his journal are blurred while the overlaid furiously scribbled art is vividly animated. The director Jeremiah Zagar is showing the congealing of a young artistic mind and vision defining its place in the world.

That world is defined and trickles in impressionistically as he tries to understand his relationship with his parents as they fight and reconcile each taking the focus depending on who has left the picture, his hierarchy with his two brothers existing in an Eden-like play state, and the attraction to an older male neighbor and the confusing and weird adult material he likes to watch. Jonah’s art moves from animals in flight to the graphically sexual, forcing an identity crisis when his hidden passion is discovered by disapproving adults.

The vitality of We the Animals exists in its refusal to adhere to stasis; to morph, flux and grow with the comprehension of Jonah’s mind. This is a great portrait of the joys and terrors, the hopes and anxieties, the confusion and clarity, the bittersweet existence of childhood. It is both memory poem and dream fugue, and Zagar’s execution is the perfect reflection of Jonah’s mature artistic vision and identity.

We the Animals is artsy because a portrait of an artist as a young man can only exist as that. The viewer can take it or reject it whatever their sensibilities define. What they can not do is deny its reality.

All photos courtesy of Cinereach