We Are What We Are
Recently widowed father Frank Parker (Bill Sage) and his two teenage daughters try to keep their time-honored family tradition a secret from their increasingly suspicious small town neighbours in the wake of a torrential downpour. But as the evidence starts building, daughters Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) are forced to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.
Director Jim Mickle returns to Toronto, after Mulberry Street opened the 2007 After Dark Festival and following a People’s Choice Award for his follow-up Stake Land at TIFF, with a brooding and character driven piece that features some excellent performances. Sage is fantastically eerie and manipulative as the patriarch of the family, looming like a dark shadow that refuses to let his girls see any literal and metaphorical daylight. Garner and Childers are perfectly cast as put upon teens who desperately want to know what life must be like for others not forced to conform to their family customs.
The film’s ritualistic and austere look at cannibalism is something that’s rarely been explored like this. It’s one of the least sensationalized films ever made on the subject. Sadly the ending goes the low road, trading in realism for shock value that feels unearned and from a different film altogether. Thankfully, it’s not enough to devalue the entire experience, as We Are What We Are still manages to stay with you long after viewing. (Kirk Haviland)