We Are What We Are (2010)
Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Starring Adrian Aguirre, Miriam Balderas, Francisco Barreiro, Carmen Beato
Directed by Jorge Michel Grau
Fans of the genre may not quite know what to make of Mexico's We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay), but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It does mean that, for many audiences, this film simply won't "work." However, for those who appreciate the artistry of filmmaking, as well as the performances and writing, it is quite brilliant.
We Are What We Are opens up with an old man staggering down the street. It's obvious to the audience that he's ill, possibly dying. When he drops dead in front of a mall, the movie focuses on his grieving family trying to cope with how they're going to provide. While the mother loses her mind with grief, it's up to the children, two brothers and a sister, to figure out where they're going to get their next meal. Oh, and by the way, they're cannibals.
Grau does an impressive job with a very small budget here, giving this film a broody look with dark colors and grim textures. His use of light and shadow really play into the whole "poor" feel of the film. At no point does it look like the family is anything less than desperate. Their broken hearts and difficult decisions make this movie more a family drama than anything.
Though the brothers in this film come across as, well, annoying in parts and angst-ridden in others, the real stars of the show are Carmen Beato, who plays psychotic matriarch Patricia, and Miriam Balderas, who plays the sister, Sheyla. Beato's dedication to her role was evident with every twitch and grimace. When she cracks, it sends a chill through the audience. Her vicious nature and emotional struggles make her a sympathetic, if disturbing character. Equally impressive, Balderas manages to come across as powerful, directing and adorable at the same time. As the sister, she is not allowed to make decisions for the family, but she has influence and control over her brothers and applies pressure when it's needed.
Do not, however, go into this movie thinking it's a cannibal gore-fest. For the majority of the film, we never see a drop of blood, never see anyone get chewed, never see what makes this more than a family-drama. In fact, for most of the film, that's all it is: a family learning how to cope with the loss of their patriarch and the passing of the reins to the next in line. While some might see it as boring, the story is powerful, emotional and reason enough to watch the film at least once. However, once the blood starts flowing, it never stops. Evisceration, beatings, bullet holes and bites make up the last part of the film. Still, the gore is a bit understated, which makes it all the more chilling. It comes across as "this is everyday life for us." While I can't say I recommend it to the average horror fan, We Are What We Are is a superbly made film that I hope finds its audience.
4 out of 5
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