Critics' Pick

The We and the I (NR)

Drama 103 March 22, 2013
By Michelle Orange
The title promises something rarefied and heady, but The We and the I, Michel Gondry's shaggy, roving social study, is grounded in home truth. If you've been to high school you know all about it: The dreaded "we" that tends to form vicious clusters-- in the cafeteria, the smoke pit, on the bus-- and the shape--shifting teenage "I," continually battered and suppressed in a kind of peer-review contest for supremacy. It's pretty simple stuff—fundamental, even. Gondry turns a single-- if somewhat apocryphal-- bus ride home into an arty after-school special, with charm gilding its frayed, earnest edges. Along BX66, the bus route Gondry and his cast of local, unprofessional kids made up for the film, we find less plot than overlapping variations on a theme. If you've ever had the bad fortune to be on public transport the moment a big-city school lets out, The We and the I holds a familiar terror. It's a hostile takeover, and resistance will get you a fresh squirt of teenage mockery. Onto the bus the kids pile, firing up phones freshly retrieved from quarantine and re-establishing their assigned domain--bullies to the back, art nerds to the window nook, mean girls to wherever they please, assorted geeks and virgins to the dead-bolted safe rooms inside their heads. Initially, the kids stay close to type; "The Fake and the Real" could be a shadow title. Identities are tweaked, swapped, forged, and called out before the journey’s end. At its finest and most affecting, The We and the I is a window onto youth's forever moments, those heavy gaps between school and home, senior year and summer, the person you are and the person you hope to be--when the future is a distant void and all the best and worst parts of life span the length of a city bus.
Michel Gondry Joe Mele, Alex Barrios, Meghan Murphy, Brandon Diaz, Michael Brodie, Jonathan Scott Worrell, Raymond Rios, Paula A. Jones, Evonny Escoto, Laidychen Carrasco Michel Gondry, Jeffrey Grimshaw, Paul Proch Raffi Adlan, Georges Bermann Paladin Films


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