Every now and then a film comes along under the radar that causes a little bit of a stir in the horror genre. Not because it is so controversial and violently gory that it offends everyone in its path. But because it is so good and speaks on a higher level than most films of its ilk. One such film is the Mexican feature debut of director Jorge Michel Grau called Somos Lo Que Hay....or We Are What We Are.
The film follows a family of five, who happen to be ritualistic cannibals, who struggle to find a way to go on after they lose their father figure. However, this doesn't prove to be an easy task for a family that indulges in devouring human flesh. There's the typical fight over head of household as well as the unenviable task of finding "food" for the next ritual. The film spoke to me in several different ways. One way I connected with the film was with that age old allegory of finding yourself amidst the turmoil of a broken family. Once the father is gone...what do you do now? Well, in the case of We Are What We Are the oldest son, Alfredo (Fancisco Barreiro), is appointed the new leader and must hunt for new prey...all while trying to keep his younger hot-headed brother, Julian (Alan Chavez), in check. Momma cannibal (Carmen Beato) withdraws to her silent retreat all while the kids bicker to gain control of the family. The film's central character is Sabina, played with a devious darkness by Paulina Gaitan from the remarkable film Sin Nombre. She will no doubt be a talent to watch in the coming years. Sabina was sort of the glue that kept the family together in their time of chaos.
I sometimes forgot that I was watching a film about cannibals and, instead, gravitated towards the dramatic family and social elements within the film. It all plays out in sort of a double-edged sword simplistic quickness about it. On the one hand, once you connect early on to all the satirical elements in the film the pace briskly moves along in a frenzy that leaves the viewer satisfied...never overstaying its welcome. However, if you don't connect with any part of We Are What We Are...then, the film ultimately becomes exactly what its title suggests. A 90 minute exercise in melancholy themes of poverty and family breakdowns that never attempts to hold your hand and tuck you into your cinematic bed. This is the crucial "make or break" tone of the film that will either have you applauding its hopeful/dreadful ending....or shutting the film off before you even care what happens next. Although We Are What We Are certainly has moments of blood-filled gore that will keep the hounds happy....make no mistake...it is a film that will definitely draw the line of love and hate right down the center of its audience.
Personally...I loved every moment of its dark-soaked grittiness in the cinematography as well as the subtle storytelling that never questions the viewer's intelligence. It is a great start for a talented film maker that only scratches the surface of what he is capable of and the film will no doubt cement its place in the genre.
We Are What We Are is a powerful film meant for an audience searching for much more than your typical story of cannibals living in Mexico. It is a heart-warming tale of whores, gay clubs and soul searching dirty cops all told through the eyes of a family of blood hungry cannibals.
8.5 out of 10
Recommendation: Perfect for Family Bonding. See it tonight!
Thanks for reading,