Michel Gondry has given us The Green Hornet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and Human Nature. His films, while at times having trouble with their narrative, have always been able to produce a visual flair that rivals that of the old silent Buster Keaton films. Here, however, while offering hints of that visual flair, is a film with almost no narrative and little flair to be had.
The We and the I is set on the last day of school and shows us the long bus ride that a group of students takes on their way home from school. We are a fly on the wall in this bus as we see relationships strengthen and disappear over the film’s runtime.
The thing about high school, and more importantly about high school students, is that they’re all children. Films such as The Breakfast Club and Election have painted a particular picture of high school by creating relatable characters. They deal with their own problems, which are also very self-centered and childish, in a way that audiences are able to associate with. In The We and the I, the problems of the characters at no point feel truly relatable in the same way as the aforementioned films. They immediately have a negative relation to your memory, almost saying, “How precious,” in the worst way possible.
Gondry splits up the movie into three distinct chapters: “The Bullies,” “The Chaos” and “The I.” As the film moves from chapter A to chapter B it feels almost the same way we would see films show the progression of the stages of grief; it’s sudden and almost without warning.
The biggest failing of the film, though, is that it lacks any empathy. As we see couples break up, assholes grow hearts and outcasts being picked on, not one of these characters do you truly empathize with. The decisions, socially and logically, that these characters make helps as we see some of them look for redemption within the final chapter, and it barely gets there, if at all. The drama discussed from character to character, scene to scene, never rises above boredom with a sprinkling of unbridled aggravation.
There are a handful of moments, though, displaying Gondry’s known style of being his own brand of weird. We see moments such as when a couple of guys are talking about heaven and hell, and we get a cut of them in a weird papier-mâché-designed hell with cellophane fire, running around in a Benny Hill-esque sped-up scene. However, as lovely as those moments can be in calling back to the Gondry we fell in love with, it still can’t help all the aforementioned problems that the film has.
The Upside: It didn’t seem to have any material worth letting down.
The Downside: Pretty much the whole movie.
On the Side: You can still go and watch fun Gondry music videos on youtube, like this.