director Jim Mickle
In the case of American remakes of foreign films, I typically lean to trying to see the original first, if not only, when opportunity knocks. However, with We Are What We Are, I wound up seeing the 2013 Jim Mickle re-make of the 2010 Mexican film, which only made me wonder more about the original in way of contrasts.
It’s the story of a somewhat socially isolated family with a very particular bent on religion and rites and values that ultimately involves an annual harvesting of a human for food, engendered by privation and necessity of their homesteading ancestors, converted into ritual and handed down by heavy patriarchal oversight. Eating human brains, though, has the unfortunate problem of creating its own brain disorders, if the psychosis of killing and cannibalizing people wasn’t enough.
After the mother dies suddenly from untreated health problems, the father (Bill Sage) has his two teenage daughters man-up in the family’s due annual event.
It’s a pretty good-looking film. The rainy woods of the trailer park’s surroundings create a certain tone that carries the melancholy and isolation that mark the girls’ universe. The girls themselves (Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers) are both very good. Actually the whole cast is pretty solid. Many have cited Garner as someone to keep an eye out for, a sentiment with which I concur.
Something, though, still feels lacking overall in the film that keeps it from being particularly compelling. I don’t know if I can put my finger on it exactly. I hadn’t realized that director Mickle had also been behind the 2010 film Stake Land, but looking back on what I wrote about that film, I seemed to have a similar sense of that film, an earnestness with some qualities, yet somehow not quite satisfying or overtly engaging.