We Are What We Are: Who's Eating Mexico?
The tale of a disoriented cannibal family trying to survive in the lower depths of Mexico City, Jorge Michel Grau's We Are What We Are is a darkly comic social allegory as well as an atmospheric little genre flick. This promising first feature is nearly as apt to use the power of suggestion as to ladle up the gore, and just arty enough to have secured a slot in last year's New York Film Festival. Grau's opening scene is good enough to anthologize. A wild-eyed middle-aged man staggers up out of the subway, collapses on the sidewalk, vomits black bile and dies. Passersby are oblivious and the clean-up is all but instant; later, at the morgue, a medic discovers an undigested human finger in the corpse's stomach. The case of the missing finger is never solved; the rest of We Are What We Are concerns the dead man's absence. Without him, his family-cum-cult are not sure how to feed themselves or continue what they call "the Ritual." Who are these unspeakably sordid people holed up in a drab, working-class neighborhood? Are they los ricos, los pobres, capitalist exploiters, social parasites, an atavistic Aztec sect, metaphors for Mexico's self-devouring drug wars? Don't look for logic. They are who they are and mainly they hungry. Once under way, We Are What We Are is a long journey through an urban miasma to the end of a dark and bloody night, a modernist score adding to the anxiety around the invariably messy kills. This is a movie where mise-en-scène trumps the suspense.
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