03rd Mar2014

‘We Are What We Are’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers, Bill Sage, Jack Gore, Kelly McGillis | Written by Jim Mickle, Nick Damici | Directed by Jim Mickle


A seemingly wholesome family, the Parkers have always kept to themselves but behind closed doors, patriarch Frank rules the family with a rigorous fervour. When a torrential rainstorm moves in, tragedy strikes and his daughters Iris and Rose are forced to assume responsibilities that extend beyond those of a typical family. Once the local authorities begin to uncover clues, they are brought closer to the secret that the Parkers have held close for so many years.

Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are is a sort of but not really English-language remake of  Jorge Michel Grau’s film about a family of cannibals. I’ve not seen the original. However this version is set in a rainy and forest filled area of the US and features a family unit consisting of a father (Bill Sage), two sisters in their early and late teens (Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers), a baby brother (Jack Gore) and a mother who dies at the beginning of the film. Being fairly old-fashioned, this requires the two sisters, Iris and Rose, to take responsibility for the continued functioning of the family. Unfortunately, this extends to food preparation… which for this family means people.

We Are What We Are is a really great film. It takes its time to tell its story but not a minute is wasted. It’s beautifully shot and the rain drenched environs of the film are a perfect foil to its sombre and melancholic tone. The performances from the central trio of father and daughters are absolutely outstanding. Sage’s portrayal of Old Testament rage and wounded masculinity is as frightening as any slasher or ghoul and Garner and Childers are perhaps even better, their incredibly mature and measured portrayals belying their youth. It should be noted that the cannibalism aspect is if anything underplayed. It’s a testament to the strength of its plot and characters that you kind of forget that you’re watching a film about people who eat people and are instead totally involved in their relationships and development.

Tonally, it had that same brooding feel as something like There Will Be Blood, with a similar broiling tension waiting to burst. It wasn’t without humour, which is good as the pressure of the atmosphere might just have been too stifling if this wasn’t the case. I can imagine that some would find the already sparingly implemented flashback sequences that shed a little light on the Parker family history perhaps unnecessary but I didn’t mind them too much. The ending is brilliantly well judged and for once, not entirely possible to see coming. We Are What We Are is fantastic piece of modern American gothic cinema that is both disturbing and moving.

We Are What We Are is out now on DVD from Entertainment One.


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