Somos Lo Que Hay (We Are What We Are) Review
August 3, 2012
Only a few months late, I am finally getting up to date with my Fan of the Month requests. Next up is Fernando's Mexican horror Somos Lo Que Hay. Thankfully it's a horror that won't end in a sleepless night tonight. Hopefully, anyway.
For many reasons, mainly preparing for my new job, I have neglected Movie Writing a little. Now that I’m somewhat back on track, I can finally get around to reviewing the films the wonderful fans of the month requested; starting with Fernando from fernandofael who asked me to take a look at Mexican horror Somos Lo Que Hay (We Are What We Are). Not usually a fan of horror, my love of world cinema outweighed my anxiety of being frightened; especially after hearing more than favourable comparisons to Let the Right One In.
Following the sudden death of a middle-aged man, his grieving widow and children are left to pick up the pieces and continue normal life. It’s incredibly difficult for any family when the head of the household passes away, but the family in Somos Lo Que Hay are no ordinary brood. The three children, together with their widowed mother, take on the responsibilities previously in the hands of the patriarch: namely, to find and prepare food for the family. This responsibility bears even more weight once we learn that the household have a special dietary requirement: they are cannibals. Maintaining a traditional, ritualistic ceremony previously carried out by the father; eldest son Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) accepts the challenge of providing for his hungry family who are unable to eat anything other than human meat.
This is why I adore the critic community I’d like to call myself a part of so much; there is probably no way I would have discovered Somos Lo Que Hay without Fernando’s recommendation. And a fantastic recommendation it was indeed. Although I wouldn’t classify it as a horror, more of a suspense movie; much like J. A Bayona’s El Orfanato. Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are is a fantastic directorial debut with one of the most atmospheric and emotive scores in modern cinema. He also cleverly touches upon the class divide in Mexico as when the father passes out in a shopping centre, his body is promptly whipped away without any empathy, humanity or respect as the presumably middle class citizens continue with their day. Corruption is also a big theme, as the initially uninterested police are persuaded to take the case once the promise of glory is suggested.
Although I am unfamiliar with the Mexican cast that formed the cannibalistic family, I cannot fault any one of their performances. Alfredo (Barreiro) and Julián (Alan Chávez) play the burdened brothers brilliantly, the mother (Carmen Beato) and her daughter Sabina (Paulina Ruiz) are perfectly grief-stricken as they become erratic and retreat inwards; especially when the teenage girl is forced into adulthood.
A sophisticated suspense that is about much more than cannibalism, Grau’s Somos Lo Que Hay was a surprising watch. Perfectly fine as it is, the film has unfortunately been victim to Hollywood as it is being remade as in English. I have made my thoughts regarding these redundant remakes before very clear, as it just encourages laziness. If nothing else, it will publicise the fantastic Mexican original and reach a new scope of fans keen to see things done properly.