What Michel Gondry does is take some of the most realistic and unique teenagers from the South Bronx, plants them on a public bus, and creates what is basically his own “The Breakfast Club” with the aimlessness of “Dazed and Confused.” Every character is put on to the bus by circumstance and come to some sense of realization by the end of the ride that will likely have no effect on their personal lives. In the end, every character in “The We and the I” are victims of peer pressure and their home lives, and are just ships passing in to the night. Filled with a cast of young actors that were cast right out of the South Bronx and honed to work with Gondry for their characters, “The We and the I” is a pretty excellent dramedy about the modern teenager that never sugarcoats their dynamics.
Every character has their own issues and alter ego that they obtain only for the purposes of belonging. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re annoying, often times they can be incredibly obnoxious. Director Gondry strives for realism and grit without any of the gratuitous sex, or inherent violence that folks like Larry Clarke enjoy. “The We and I” aims for honesty about surviving in a social climate that demands conformity and essentially examines what these characters are when there are no pressures from their social circles. Deep down even the most vicious of the characters riding on the bus have their vulnerabilities and charms, but they’re perpetually stuck in a loop that make them incapable of being human. And this is not reflected any stronger than in the lead up to the big punch in the gut that occurs in the finale.
Michael, for example, a very aggressive, sometimes violent group leader who commandeers the back of the bus, and judges everyone from his vantage point. Up in front is the very militant bus driver (Mia Lobo is a bonafide scene stealer) who keeps the teens on the bus in line, never bowing to their mob mentality. There isn’t a premise so much as a plot where our cast of teens are prepared to enjoy the summer as their last ride on the bus sends them off on their own lives. But once again, nothing really changes, in spite of the occasion. What Michel Gonrdy explores in “The We and the I” is that while most of the people on this bus are ugly, mean, and often times destructive, their positing of these attitudes serve as a form of survival. You’re free to hate anyone and everyone present in the bus on “The We and I,” but their personas are merely the purposes of surviving among their kind. Even when gay couple Brandon and Luis follow through with a rough break up on the bus, Luis wanders off leaving his ex in tears as he struggles to maintain his attitude.
Every character in the film has their moment where they have to stand up for themselves, and every character has a moment where they’re pushed in to a corner and forced to reveal a sense of vulnerability. Even the often confident boy hungry Laidychen is something of a persona whose own ego becomes her crumbling point. Gonrdy is never afraid to get comedic in rare instances, introducing character Ladychien’s deeply religious older brother who interrupts a potential fight with his little sister and a trio of bullies on a bus, and even shows them burning in hell when they submit to his please for peace for fear of his religious convictions. But while Gondry does get surreal in brief instances, “The We and the I” is a simplistic and brilliant drama that prides itself on creating conflict out of the most minute moments on the bus. “The We and I” doesn’t garner a slew of lovable characters, it’s just a moment in time shared by a group of flawed human beings with uncertain futures, and director Gondry succeeds in delivering a very entertaining and compelling human study.