It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Michel Gondry's new film is a vivid snapshot of an interracial group of teenagers as they take a bus ride home on the last day of school. The movie opens with a great sequence of the students leaving a Bronx public high school and retrieving their mobile phones from a makeshift storage run by a local grocer. There may be a ban on electronic devices at school, but these kids have gigabytes flowing through their bloodstreams. Once they've got their phones, they're back in the world. Throughout the film, we see a steady flow of text messages, links and videos swirling around the bus and beyond: defining and destroying relationships, making people laugh and cry, bearing news both good and tragic.
The film introduces a dozen or so characters and shifts the narrative between them in an effortless, natural way that gives us a good idea of the group dynamics, as well as some individual backstories. Even though the whole of "The We and the I" is set inside the bus, Gondry peppers the film with innovative flashbacks, shot on low-def video and serving as visual footnotes: some real, some imaginary. The whole movie feels like a breeze and has the lively rhythm of the kids' talk, which sounds totally authentic and was actually improvised in a workshop Gondry ran with his actors prior to the shooting.
The material truly feels like it arose from the kids themselves: they're playing characters who seem close to who they really are, which is not to say they're not acting. Gondry has done a great job with easing them into a relaxed mode that — combined with fantastic camerawork by Alex Disenhof and sharp editing by Gondry's regular collaborator Jeff Buchanan — gives the film a spontaneous vibe. "
The We and the I" is filled with little details that ring true: the way the kids relate to one another, roll their eyes at each other, play stupid jokes, make guest lists for sweet sixteen parties, etc. In terms of sheer authenticity, this may be the single most real film about how contemporary American teenagers of assorted ethnicities behave — which is all the more remarkable if one keeps in mind that Gondry is a Frenchman.