Here are the quick movie reviews for Happy as Lazzaro and We the Animals.
Happy as Lazzaro
From the opening scene, in which we see a suitor serenading his dearest from beneath her window, joined by rustic bagpipes, Happy as Lazzaro sets a table of bittersweet neo-realist and magical-realist delicacies. Happy as Lazzaro is undoubtedly my biggest surprise of the year so far, as it finds fairy-tale resonances in modern actualities and slowly transforms into a ghostly allegorical film. I feel it’s the films hard-hitting swerve at it’s midpoint, where we find our title character (played by a silently radiant, Adriano Tardiolo) awaking to find he’s lost everything but his innocence. But as the film abruptly dissolves and resets itself at just the halfway point, it doesn’t miss a beat and only improves throughout. It’s a film that has the urgency of a news bulletin and the authority of a classic. Happy as Lazzaro is a film, where you find yourself succumbed to its strangeness the way that a child is engulfed in a bedtime story, trusting the storyteller even when you might not fully understand the tale or fully know where it’s going. But what continuously carries this film is the vision of Alice Rohrwacher, who’s direction and screenplay will only acquire new depths of emotion and meaning each time you see it. Its Rohrwacher’s patient, light-fingered skill that deliver the films twists and turns with an insistently moral vison. The closing of Lazzaro’s tale is a devastating one, as the films only remedy to despair may be its own beauty. But it’s the way Rohrwacher extracts the treasures of the past and adapts them to a new use, offering a new standard of comfort. That there is happiness in heartbreak, and vice versa.
We the Animals
The surface level plot of We the Animals is as simple as they come, but it’s the execution by Jeremiah Zagar that pushes the film into new directions. Zagar portrays the experiences of an adolescent boy coming to terms with his broken family and his emerging sexuality as a swirling cyclone of brutal arguments and bittersweet pontifications. Each moment we experience with our lead character Jonah, we see it contribute to his developing perception of the world. We as well hear that through ruminative voiceover from Jonah, which transforms the film to a poetic variation on the coming-of-age formula less obsessed on exposition than the haunting beauty of growing up. Though the entire film is strongly influenced from the work of Terrence Malick, it’s the films initial fragmentary opening scenes that feel like a low-class variation on The Tree of Life. But as the film progresses reality sneaks in and bursts all the nostalgic bubbles. Though Zagar doesn’t take We the Animals to many surprising places, he does takes the material to fully realized places and owns the complexity of them. We the Animals drifts down the stream of childhood, and takes its protagonists crisp observations of his insular world into an utterly timeless tale.