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.