Mexican-based We Are What We Are focuses on one of humanity’s strongest taboos; cannibalism. Opening with a seemingly possessed man stumbling through a shopping mall, the film shocks from the off as we see him him fall down dead moments after he is introduced.
When the news reaches his family they are panic-stricken; not simply because the patriarch of their family has died, but because their provider will, essentially, no longer be able to provide. It is with a dawning sense of trepidation that the audience realise just what the family fret over losing. Instead of the usual weekly shop we discover that he would bring home something much worse than tinned Macaroni Cheese. The family’s eerie references to having to collect ‘something’ the father now can’t intensify the audience’s concern and soon enough we discover that, in order to carry out the family ritual, that ‘something’ takes the irksome form of a human being.
The mother’s obvious fear and loathing of whores is indicative of the imaginable link between infidelity and cannibalism – in feeding his carnal appetite with whores before eating them the mother feels her husband doubly betrayed her and their children. The film itself is punctured with several close-ups of closing doors, suggestive of both her feelings toward her deceased spouse and society’s feeling toward her habits.
Inept policemen try to unearth the mysterious appearance of a woman’s finger in the body of the deceased father/husband figure, providing some lighter relief to an otherwise bleak film filled with silences and furtive glances – as well, of course, as blood, guts and teeth-in-flesh action. But, a note for the more squeamish among us, whilst a lot of the more gory scenes take place off-screen… but a lot don’t.
The title ‘We Are What We Are’ suggests an innate cannibalism present in humanity inferring, rather worryingly, that we are all, to an extent, cannibalistic; be it in our fascination with devouring flesh, media or other furtive delights.
The film benefits from its little dialogue and extensive use of static cameras – the audience is never fully invited to be part of the family, and neither would they want to.
Despite being a hugely bleak film it nonetheless offers an inspiring message – a ridiculously optimistic woman gives Alfredo (portrayed impressively by Francisco Barreiro) a message while he travels away from one of his failed attempts to provide for his family and it says simply ‘estas vivo’ – ‘you are alive’. Poignant, especially in a film that considers, quite literally, the ethic of eat or be eaten, it affirms the belief in rejoicing in life, in accepting your lot… even if you may have a half-eaten face.
Best bit: When the mother exacts revenge on the whores who ruined her life.
Best performance: Francisco Barreiro as Alfredo