WOpening in the spirited style of Terrence Malick, documentary director Jeremiah Zagar makes his feature-length debut with this poetic and sensual coming-of-age film about growing up in poverty in rural America. Painfully recounting the lives of three brothers over the course of a year or so as they accumulate scars that they will bear as adults, this film is filled with golden sunsets that give the scenes the quality of a fairy tale. childhood memories. It is a thing of beauty: too beautiful perhaps, at the real risk of embellishing poverty.
The frame is the mostly white world of upstate New York, all the rusty trailers and junk cars on the front lawns. The film’s narrator is 10-year-old sensitive and observant Jonah (first-time actor Evan Rosado is incredibly good). He is the youngest of a trio of semi-wild brothers, who sleep like a small pack of wolves in a bed, their arms slung over their heads. The camera rushes to keep pace as they sniff out the mischief. Boys are well liked but not well loved by parents who have had children who are too young. The family is blown away, originally from Brooklyn: Papa Paps (RaÃºl Castillo) is Puerto Rican. Every now and then it will boil over, beating Ma (Sheila Vand) and taking off.
Adapting the acclaimed novel by Justin Torres, Zagar takes us on a childish outlook on life. One day, Paps gives Jonah a hard swimming lesson, takes him to the middle of the river, and lets him go. Jonah sinks helplessly into the black water. Zagar then returns to the silent and miserable family path, skipping the rescue – editing this defining moment of childhood in the way it could be encoded in Jonah’s memory. It’s an eloquent and lively scene, and there are others. But a few, like the boys, starving, merrily rummaging through the kitchen, felt unreal, not quite honest, too pretty to look at. Ken Loach, it is not.