Michel Gondry’s The We and the I is a high-concept, low-budget portrait of the selfishness of teenagers. Aside from its introduction and a few anecdotal excursions, the entirety of the film takes place on a school bus. The setting ensures the film maintains a singular focus on teenage social dynamics; it’s an appropriate metaphor for both the tightness of high school community – everyone confined into the same small space – and the way such communities become increasingly homogenous, everyone trapped travelling the same direction.
I have a lot of appreciation for what Gondry was trying to do; his analysis of the cruelty of school ecosystems is spot on. He captures the way bullies command respect: people laughing and playing along out of relief that they’re not the victim – this time. It effectively conveys the insularity of high school, everyone’s stories bleeding into one another.
But Gondry’s whimsical style proves distracting; the groundedness of these teenagers doesn’t gel with his often fantastical approach. The actors don’t help either: the most charismatic bully gets off the bus ten minutes in, and the quieter, Linklater-esque last act needed better writing and performances to succeed. In the end, its execution falls short of its ideas.
4 thoughts on “The We and the I (2012)”
Gondry seems to have started his career at the top and got progressively worse!
He’s obviously working with a much, much lower budget here. I just think that he needs the right material to shine. He’s great when he’s working something whimsical/fantastical, as that’s his thaaang, but his normal tropes don’t seem to work as well with more straightforward material (like this).
I like Eternal Sunshine enough that I’m still willing to give anything Gondry directs a shot (though opportunity hasn’t presented itself for me to see much of his work). I do hope he delivers a second movie as impacting as the one from Kaufman’s screenplay, at some point. Sounds like this isn’t it.
I guess Kaufman might have been more important to the success of Eternal Sunshine than i initially thought.
As I was saying above, I think it’s just that Gondry’s a limited director. If he’s given the opportunity to indulge his fantastical nature in service to the narrative/characters (see: the first half of Be Kind Rewind and all of Eternal Sunshine) he can create something truly sublime. Put him in front of a pretty naturalistic, low-key piece of fiction like this and he flounders, because his stylism works against the material rather than with it (it’s not that I want to see him put generic point-and-shoot stuff together, either! He just needs to pick more appropriate scripts).