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‘We the Animals’ a visceral look at chaos, confusion of youth

Raul Castillo, left, and Evan Rosado star in

Raul Castillo, left, and Evan Rosado star in the heart-wrenching "We the Animals." Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Orchard

‘We the Animals’

Directed by Jeremiah Zagar

Starring Evan Rosado, Raul Castillo, Josiah Gabriel

Rated R

Playing at The Landmark at 57 West, Angelika Film Center

“We the Animals” is a coming-of-age movie in which the formative experiences at hand are defined by intense primal sensations rather than specific waypoints in a predetermined narrative.

There’s a palpably savage quality to the moments of awakening depicted by filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar, adapting the memoir by Justin Torres, in which Jonah (Evan Rosado) and his brothers confront the confusion and turmoil of youth, ferociously battling it at times and being cowed by it at others.

That makes the picture more honest in a sort of fundamental sense than many of its superficial counterparts. The degree to which adolescence can feel as if it’s a constant, confusing rush of moments that are both dangerous and comforting is encapsulated in scenes of the brothers playing with their parents or watching them viciously fight; in other moments where they violently act out as they maraud through town; and in a sequence where they speed down the road on the flatbed of their father’s truck, under a beautiful and ominous night sky.

Sure, there are some cliches — this is far from the first picture of this ilk to intersperse animation that reflects the action. But the tired tropes are few and far between and the feeling of always “wanting more,” as Jonah puts it in the opening narration, is deep and true.

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