I remember rushing with Jeffrey Wells to an early morning screening of “We The Animals” at Sundance. Why? Because Eric Kohn's IndieWire rave from the previous day's screening, in which he graded the film a rare A, had mentioned that it was "this year's ‘Moonlight.’” Of course, that wasn't the case. The film barely shares any similarities to Barry Jenkins's film. No, what director Justin Torres' film actually steals from is Malick naturalism, or maybe even Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
I wrote this in my B+ review of the film:
"Clearly inspired by Benh Zeitlin‘s masterpiece “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Zagar and cinematographer Zak Mulligan infuse magical surrealism to the film’s frames, such as underwater sequences which Jonah dreams up due to the incident at the lake. There are images of children covered in mud, the aforementioned sketch drawings and, most notably, Jonah levitating to the sky free of all the burdens that hamper him back down on the ground."
"This is an assured, confident feature-directing debut for Zagar who shows great promise in his ability to render a confident and brilliant work of art from difficult-to-adapt source material. His film is a complicated coming-of-age tale that not only brings refreshing insights but gives us beautifully rendered images that have the power to haunt you for days."