Saturday, April 05, 2014
The We & the I
Directed by Michel Gondry and written by Gondry, Paul Proch, and Jeff Grimshaw, The We and the I is the story of a group of teenagers riding on the same bus route during their last day of high school. The film has Gondry employ non-actors and newcomers to explore a day in the life of young kids in the Bronx coming home from school. The result is a fascinating and charming film from Michel Gondry.
The last day of school is a day where kids get ready for the summer and not think about anything related to school. The film is set on a bus route through the Bronx where a group of kids talk about what they’re going to do for the summer as friendships and relationships would evolve in the course of the entire day. The film’s script does have a traditional structure where it focuses on a bunch of high school kids goofing off and talking about their plans as well as some stories that would really shape the course of an entire day. Even as some of the characters in the film would go through some major changes in that day as it largely takes place inside a bus.
Michel Gondry’s direction is very simple in the way he sets the film nearly inside a bus on the streets of the Bronx yet he would create scenes that play into stories of real-life or fantasies. The scenes involving stories about a classmate of theirs who didn’t show up to school is shot in small, digital cameras in a full-frame aspect ratio as well as some flashbacks about a party where something might’ve happened. There’s also these scenes that is definitely part of Gondry’s oeuvre where he creates some fantasy scenes where a kid talks about a party he has or two kids who never talked to each other think about what to do together.
The fact that Gondry uses a lot of non-professional actors or non-actors adds not just to the sense of realism in the film but showcase young kids who are at a crucial point in their life. While some of them could be labeled as bullies, there’s a much more complex side to them that makes them more compelling as one of them would go into a real major development. Even as the girl he makes fun of throughout the film would have him wanting to apologize for his actions. With the help of casting director Mellicent Dyane, the natural approach to the acting where people like Michael Brodie, Teresa Lynn, Laidychen Carrasco, Alex Barrios, Jonathan Worrell, and Mia Lobo as the bus driver all give fantastic performances that some professional actors would love to do. Overall, Gondry creates a very charming and engaging film about a day in the life of young kids on the last day of school.
Cinematographer Alex Disenhof does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the use of natural lighting for the scenes in the bus to the grainy cellphone film footage in some of the flashback and fantasy scenes. Editor Jeff Buchanan does fantastic work with the editing in creating some stylish cuts with its use of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play with its humor and drama. Production designer Tommaso Ortino, with set decorator Matthew W. Herschel and art director Seth Williamson, does amazing work with the look of some of the fantasy set pieces from a party scene to some of the moments where kids deal with trouble in some fantasy sequences.
Costume designer Sarah Mae Burton does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual for the look of the film. The visual effects by Vance Miller does terrific work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects for some of the fantasy scenes as well as one scene in the bus. Sound editor Paul Hsu does superb work with the sound from the way cellphones sound to some of the things that goes on in the bus. Music consultant Linda Cohen does brilliant work with the film’s soundtrack with its use of old-school hip-hop from tracks by Young MC, Big Daddy Kane, Run-DMC, and a few others plus some ambient pieces by Boards of Canada.
The We & the I is an extraordinary film from Michel Gondry. Armed with a great cast of non-professional actors and a unique premise, it’s a film that could’ve failed in its simplicity. Yet, Gondry’s approach to realism as well as an element of fantasy makes the film so captivating. In the end, The We & the I is an excellent film from Michel Gondry.
Michel Gondry Films: Human Nature - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Dave Chappelle’s Block Party - The Science of Sleep - Be Kind Rewind - Tokyo: Interior Design - (The Thorn in the Heart) - The Green Hornet - (Mood Indigo) - (Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?)
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