Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Jim Jarmusch’s new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, is a great “hang-out movie.” Here are five other pictures that keep company with likable types.
The We And The I (2012)
With The We And The I, French daydreamer Michel Gondry crams about a dozen South Bronx teenagers on a city bus, watching them in real-time as they head home after their final day of school before summer vacation. The film is a rambling, rambunctious descendant of Dazed And Confused, except much more authentic: It grew out of a Bronx-based community workshop, Gondry developing the characters with his cast of adolescent unknowns, most of whom use their real names and incorporate conflicts from their own lives into the loose plot. The spirit of enthusiastic collaboration seeps into the movie, lending credibility to what is, essentially, a feature-length hangout session. The results, messy though they sometimes are, feel like a genuine microcosm of youth—a film by, for, and about American adolescents.
Gondry isn’t above dividing his high-school-age subjects into identifiable cliques, situating the bullies and troublemakers at the back of the bus, and singling out the class wallflowers. But by the time most of these kids have reached their stop—it’s a very long bus ride, calling the school’s residential radius into slight question—they’ve deepened into much more than caricatures. The We And The I is heavier on plot than it needed to be; friendships dissolve, secrets are spilled, and crushes are revealed over the course of one afternoon. But maybe that’s part of the point: When you’re 15, life is always a soap opera, and every interpersonal relationship is constantly in flux. Why wouldn’t the last day of school be an eventful one?
A DIY illusionist with an overactive imagination, Gondry can’t quite resist slipping in a couple flights of fancy: A cutaway vision of hell puts the director’s affinity for paper-mache to good use, while a heated encounter is later defused by a student framed with a Christ-like halo of light. Mostly, however, the filmmaker cedes the spotlight to his young stars—and even the less accomplished of these amateur actors provide an infectious energy. First and foremost, The We And The I is a portrait of community, paying tribute to a borough it glimpses primarily through the Plexiglas windows of a moving vehicle. Gondry, who’s also crashed a Brooklyn block party, sent Jim Carrey careening through the Long Island of his memories, and celebrated the VHS heroes of New Jersey, clearly has a home away from home. He was born and raised in France, but his heart belongs to the Tri-State Area.
Availability: The We And The I is available on DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix, and to rent or purchase through the major digital services.