By Don Simpson | March 7, 2013
Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Michel Gondry, Paul Proch, Jeffrey Grimshaw
Starring: Michael Brodie, Teresa Lynn, Raymond Delgado, Jonathan Ortiz, Jonathan Scott Worrell, Alex Barrios, Laidychen Carrasco, Meghan Murphy, Chenkon Carrasco, Jacob Carrasco, Konchen Carrasco, Raymond Rios, Kenneth Quinones, Amanda Mercado, Manuel Rivera, Jillian Rice, Chantelle-Lisa Davis, Brandon Diaz, Luis Figueroa, Marlene Perez
School is officially out for the summer as a bunch of high schoolers crowd onto a city bus. With no adult authority figures willing to keep the kids in line, the bus is quickly segregated into two distinct groups: the bullies and the bullied. Out-numbered and unwilling to take a stand against a gang of hood-rat brats, the adults opt to exit the bus — some more gracefully than others — until the bus driver is left with a bunch of unruly teens. The bus devolves into an urban The Lord of the Flies on wheels as the kids jockey for power by using mental and physical torture against each other. The meanest and the crudest claw their way to the top of the pile, leaving a trail of emotionally devastated victims in their wake; but rather than dissolving into a state of total anarchy, kids exit the bus at their respective stops and their diminishing numbers slowly alter the tone of the remaining group. What begins as a pack of feral wolves transforms into more civil pairings, initiating increasingly intimate conversations.
The We and the I is an interesting social experiment in which writer-director Michel Gondry casts a bunch of non-professional actors straight out of a Bronx high school and crams them into this mobile social boiling pot. In theory, Gondry just wants them to be themselves as he clinically observes the pack mentality of teenagers, then tests what happens when the numbers of the pack begins to dwindle and as the bus transports them farther from school and closer to home. In significant numbers, the bullies are invincible; they are both fearless and selfish. As individuals, however, they are totally different people. Some of them might even become nice, albeit still a bit self-centered. Of course there is no denying the presence of the video cameras and modest crew changes their reality; at the very least, these outside forces form a safety net to ensure that the seemingly immoral bullies won’t push things too far. Sure, there may not be any authority figure on screen, but there is no greater authority than the director behind the camera.
Regardless of their subtle personality adjustments, after suffering through their relentless bullying for so long, these characters can never become likable. These are bad people, constantly fighting, teasing and insulting each other; they wallow in this cesspool of hatred and anger, gossiping and gloating, bragging and bullying. The We and the I seems to just support the theory that our world is going to hell in a hand basket if these morally-deprived youth of today are any reflection of our future. This is the type of film that makes me glad that I do not have any kids because I would not want to subject anyone to the mental torture presented throughout The We and the I. It is worth noting, however, that Gondry remains merely a fly on the wall; placing any moralizing or condescension into the hands of the critics and audience.
It is no mere coincidence that my favorite Gondry films are also his most surreal; The We and the I is probably his most real –- even more real than his documentary, The Thorn in the Heart. Sure, even the greatest surrealist of them all, Luis Bunuel dabbled in neo-realism now and again; but Bunuel never lost his voice. The We and the I, however, seems to veer so far astray from Gondry’s directorial strengths. Other than the opening title sequence, there is nothing in The We and the I that showcases Gondry’s unique visual style.