This morning Jordan Ruimy and I caught Jeremiah Zagar‘s We, The Animals, an imaginative, altogether excellent film about an unusual ’80s boyhood in Upstate New York. We had decided to attend this morning largely due to Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn having called it “this year’s Moonlight.”

Before the film began I briefly spoke to Cinetic’s John Sloss. He said that the Moonlight analogy had set the bar too high. But when it was over I was persuaded that We, The Animals, based on a 2012 Justin Torres novel, is trippier and more affecting than Moonlight ever dreamed of, and in a way that recalls Beasts of the Southern Wild with a little Tree of Life mixed in.

I re-read Kohn’s review as I was leaving the theatre, and I felt a little irked about his emphasizing the gay aspect. “As with Moonlight, Zagar taps into a cinematic toolbox for representing an outsider’s struggles,” Kohn wrote, “particularly as it pertains to a developing queerness within the confines of a world in which marginalization is baked into everyday life.”

My email to Kohn: “The analogy is not Moonlight, Eric, but magical realism, Beasts of the Southern Wild, flying above the trees, animated drawings, Malick-like impressionism a la The Tree of Life, family conflict, dreamscapes.

“The gay factor is incidental, almost negligible. Same-sex boners are not the thing here. It’s the levitation, the book of drawings, the careful editing, the apartness, the challenges faced by a ‘different’, artistic kid…the Malick of it all.”

This is easily the best film of Sundance ‘18 along with Lynne Ramsay’s plus those four docs I like (Ashby, Fonda, Williams, Studio 54).

Sundance boilerplate: “With a screenplay by Dan Kitrosser and Jeremiah Zagar, We, The Animals is a visceral coming-of-age story propelled by strikingly layered performances from its astounding cast, elements of magical realism and unbelievable animated sequences.”