Friday, July 16, 2010

Fantasia Day 8 - We Are Who We Are

Once again, I hadn't prepared any food and I got out of the house later than I had wanted for the 7:45 showing of the Mexican cannibal/social issues horror film, We Are Who We Are (Somos Lo Que Hay, sounds better in spanish, doesn't it?).

I remembered yesterday, though, after checking out the new tunnel extension that Concordia put in between the old tunnel (that connects the Hall building with the LV building, yeah great names Concordia) and the EV building (the fancy new engineering and art building) that I happily discovered a new chinese bakery in the small commercial space on the way to the Guy metro stop. So I parked my bike over there and grabbed a bunch of pork buns and sundry other goods to eat in the line-up.

The buns are not great, a bit too sweet across the board (do we have to add sugar to everything today?) and not enough texture, but hell I'll take them. Cheap and another welcome food trend that has finally arrived in Montreal (if you are keeping count, it's hipster old school burgers, ramen and now chinese buns).

I have mixed feelings about We Are Who We Are. There is no doubt that it is a quality film. It has a great, sepia look that supports a very dark and desperate tone. The actors are excellent and the tension is real. After the movie, I felt like I quite liked it (especially after a major plot point at the end was explained to me and I realized I had not correctly interpreted it; it made the movie make much more sense), but during the movie, I was kind of annoyed and dissatisfied.

The story is about a very poor family in Mexico city whose father dies. He sold and repaired watches in the market and that was their only means of support. It turns out that he squandered what little money he made on las putas and when his two sons try to take over his stall in the market, they are quickly booted out. Even more serious than the need for money, it turns out that the father also got "stuff" for the family. They speak about it in euphemism, but it becomes clear that it was other humans that they ate. It is never explained why, but the family really seems desperate to procure the stuff. There is a ritual attached to their cannibalism and a suggestion of magical powers.

Unfortunately, none of them are up to the task. Worse, they are basically emotionally dysfunctional. The mother is the worst, constantly on the attack and otherwise almost utterly unproductive. She was an extremely unpleasant character and her children's inability to truly stand up to her grated on me. I guess it was actually quite realistic and that may be why after it was all over, I felt more positive about the movie, but when it was on, they were driving me nuts.

I think We Are Who We Are is a movie for subtler audiences than myself. I would suggest that it is more of a study of family dysfunction and possibly an oblique critique of the role of religion in Mexican society. I'm all for the exploration of those themes, but I want a bit more punch with it and not totally ineffective characters.


swampandreviews said...

What plot point are you talking about? I feel I missed something.
I will post my review shortly! Are you planning on seeing Air Doll? If not, please do, it is FANTASTIC!

OlmanFeelyus said...

Air Doll is on our list but not until after Fantasia. We have to catch up on his other movies since Nobody Knows. Good to know people are loving it. I'll go check out your review next.

As to the plot point in We Are What We Are, you're probably not missing something, it was my own dunderheadedness that misinterpreted what I suspect everyone else in the audience correctly got.


When Alfredo bites his sister, I thought he was doing it in a desperate last-minute attempt to complete the ritual by eating someone (and I guess then making everything right, as his mother suggested would happen when the ritual was complete). My friend explained that it was actually to make her look like a victim so she could escape and the line could continue. That was my one big "DOH" moment so far at Fantasia. :)

angelica said...

Oh, interesting, I didn't pick up on that plot point either, although it definitely makes sense. I suppose in the end it's a matter of interpretation, and there's a lot to interpret. I agree with you, though, I read it as a critique of religion too. I'll post my two cents about it soon.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Oh great, so I wasn't the only one who didn't catch that. Phew.

I also think there was stuff about being homosexual in Mexico as well. It was quite interesting how Alfredo's shame was portrayed when he was screwing up his courage to make out with that guy. Was he just trying to be brave to catch a victim or was he actually coming out of the closet?

angelica said...

Exactly! In my mind, it's a little from column A, and a little from column B. As Mitch commented later, the family as a whole was so consumed with hiding who they are that Alfredo ended up hiding from himself. To me, that then makes that sequence essentially a moment of dual acceptance of who he really is.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yes, very well put. I am getting the feeling now (and after reading your take) that the movie was a middle excerpt from a longer film, where we would have had more explained. I guess you could say that it was realistic in that it only took place over a day or two and so you can't expect all this resolution to happen among these characters who were profoundly connected to their dysfunctional ways.

swampandreviews said...

Agreed. The scene at the club was brilliant in that way.
Also, I don't know, but that plot point was clear to me the moment she finds the piece of paper in her hand saying "You're alive."

I agree that more could've been explained. To me, it's not so much a matter of making it easier for the audience, but also of making a richer film, in terms of mythology. It's great when a film creates a small universe of its own and it would've been great to learn a bit more about the father and the ritual or whatnot. Instead, we got a glimpse at what that world is, and while it's as good a way to go as any, some may find it irritating.