Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay) (2010)

Picky Eaters

My girlfriend says that I am absolutely the slowest eater in the world. I interject that eating slowly is healthier than gobbling down an entire meal in two minutes, but all she has to do is point to my stomach, which in comparison to her waifish figure makes me look like Mr. Belvedere. This is one of those things in our relationship that she rarely lets go of, and I have never understood why. That was, until I watched Jorge Michel Grau's Mexican drama-horror We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay); a film about eating that takes an eternity before it scrapes the bottom of its plate.

After the patriarch of a family of cannibals dies, the rest are left to fend for themselves. Not knowing how to properly stalk their prey, the siblings (along with their frazzled mother) attempt to do their best so that they can put "food" on the table and prepare for what is called "The Ritual". The eldest son, Alfredo, is determined to take over the family responsibilities, but is met with criticism from his wildcard younger brother and level-headed sister. On the other side of town, a coroner stumbles upon a severed human finger in the body of the aforementioned patriarch which he shows to a pair of lesser-than detectives who are determined to make the bust and begin closing in on the family.

I must be honest, here. When I first sat down to watch We Are What We Are, I was expecting a character study but with cannibalism. Maybe some emotional character development but with gore. Unfortunately, this movie packs neither. Every scene is essentially their mother screaming about whores, the younger brother hitting someone, or Alfredo stalking a group of gay men. When it comes to cannibalism, we never see anything, and in this movie's case, "less is more" doesn't make the cut.

The characters are static and offer up little to none in likable or redeeming qualities. In some cases, you may actually find yourself rooting for the bumbling detectives in hope that the movie will end sooner. The soundtrack is sparse and consisting of mostly crude violins, which would work in a 70s middle-of-nowhere flick, but not so well in modern day Mexico.

The film attempts to juggle subtext about the horrible conditions of Mexico, with people committing kidnappings and murders in public or the police and government having little to no concern for its people, but it all goes over your head, because the film is more focused on the abuse of prostitutes and gay men. Is that more subtext? I suppose; but if the line "I'm not eating a faggot" is the most subversive thing in the film, then I think Grau should have gone straight-up cannibalism tale over this murky morality piece. Even the ending of the film fails in that it treats the audience as an idiot, trying to make us believe we're supposed to be surprised by the final shot.

Bottom Line: We Are What We Are left a bad taste in my mouth, and at this point, human flesh would be a better palate cleanser than another serving of this film.

2/5 Stars

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