There are those who will say that Jeremiah Zagar’s We The Animals is this year’s Moonlight. Perhaps even 2018’s answer to Beasts of the Southern Wild. These comparisons are understandable; like those films, the movie adaptation of Justin Torres’ novel by the same name centers on a young nonwhite boy who daydreams of a better life, while slowly coming to terms with his own budding sense of desire. Flattering as these comparisons are — the cinematography here is just as dynamic and evocative as those two Oscar-nominated films — We The Animals deserves to be praised as a rare and precious film in its own right.
First unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival (and soon playing as the centerpiece at Outfest LA), Zagar’s film is hitting theaters in August and finally got a gorgeous new trailer to whet everyone’s appetites about this story of a fractured working-class family during a hot and humid Northeast summer. Manny, Joel, and Jonah, the “animals” of the title are three young brothers who do everything together — they run wild in the fields, snuggle together to stay warm, role-play as their parents when they’re bored, scavenge for food at home and in stores when they need to. But it is Jonah (Evan Rosado) who guides our eyes with the child-like sketches he spends his night drawing. He knows he’s different. His Ma (Sheila Vand) loves him best and wants him to stay a boy forever. She’s already seen what becoming a man means in the eyes of his father (Raúl Castillo): it involves drinking and bruises.
Pulsing with child-like wonder that makes room for the darker violence that lurks in Jonah’s life, We The Animals captures the way roughhousing with dad can be both playful and dangerous, a game or a beating. Natural light and handheld camerawork make Jonah’s world feel alive, beautiful even. There’s a scene in the trailer where you get to see a swimming lesson gone awry that’s as mesmerizing as it is terrifying, perfectly encapsulating what makes this portrait of a broken family so affecting. And while Castillo is sure to be the draw, you won’t be able to keep your eyes off of Rosado, who’s a revelation as the sensitive, wide-eyed Jonah. Check out the full trailer below and start counting the days until this gem of a film reaches a theater near you.
We The Animals opens in theaters August 17, 2018.