We the Animals (2019)

We the Animals (Review)


We the Animals is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Based on Justin Torre’s acclaimed novel We the Animals, Jeremiah Zager’s debut feature is a visually stunning, powerful and poetic film. But it also carries a darker side as it explores childhood poverty, family breakdown and emerging sexuality through a series of dream-like memories. From the outset, We the Animals immerses us in a child-centred portrait of family life, confusion and brotherly love while carefully weaving in the harsh realities of poverty and isolation. Here We the Animals gives a voice to the beauty and expressionism of childhood imagination and the barriers of stifled opportunity and insecurity.

Ten-year-old Jonah (Evan Rosado) is the youngest of three half-Puerto Rican siblings within a volatile and fluctuating family in 1980s upstate New York. Jonah’s life veers from laughter and fun to sudden emotional detachment and pain; his outlet his drawings. Meanwhile, his parents (Raul Castillo) and (Shelia Vand) struggle with a turbulent marriage wrapped in emotional and physical conflict. Jonah seeks emotional support and stability from his older brothers in an unspoken world of secret rules, unruly behaviour and brotherly love. 


However, Jonah never really fits into his brother’s world, his sensitive nature and desire for artistic freedom carving him out from his siblings. This difference is about to become even more apparent as family life becomes more and more complicated, and Jonah’s drawings become the words and ideas he cannot vocalise at home.  

We the Animals explores its core themes of emerging sexuality and identity with the delicacy of spring flowers emerging from the winter’s grasp. Here, Zagar’s movie has an almost mesmeric beauty, as the camera follows the boy’s movements like a soft summer breeze. The result is a complex portrait of childhood memory that is never afraid to suddenly delve into the bewildering and opaque feelings attached to the coming of age process.


Director:  Jeremiah Zagar

Cast: Evan RosadoRaúl CastilloSheila Vand 

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