Off we go to the 2022 Slamdance festival, which is a online-only selection of happening films beamed directly to your front room from Park City in Jan/Feb 2022. With box-offices toiling, the indie sector in particular needs all the help it can get, so showcases like this is worth highlighting in general, and so is Antonio Tibaldi’s arresting sci-fi drama. That sci-fi label may not be particular helpful, since We Are Living Things is an intense drama first and foremost, and the science fiction trappings, while essential, are not dwelt on; this is something rather more low-key and relatable.
When he’s not recycling aluminium cans, Mexican Solomon (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) is working on a telescope to search for potential alien communications from space. But he intercepts a signal of a different kind when, as part of his work as a plumber, he encounters Chuyao (Xingchen Lyu) who works in a New York nail salon, and may have had a close encounter of her own. Chuyao has a bad relationship she needs to be extricated from, and soon the two immigrants are on the run together, trying to piece together a shared purpose that may involve leaving the planet…
There’s remarkably few special effects used in this unusual China/US/Italy co-production, but that works with the flow of the film; we’re meant to question the sanity of our protagonists, who find a ‘Ron Neary in Close Encounters’ vibe as they look into questions of how extra-terrestrials might already be amongst us; we at least get a look at something secret in a bag that Solomon carries to firm up the thesis. We Are Living Things also benefits from some strong NYC location work, and a stark, striking look, and the final shot is something of a wow moment; be warned that the trailer below tells a great deal of the films’s story.
We Are Living Things won’t please the action crowd, but those looking for intellectual meat will find plenty to chew on here. This works in a way that the recent Riz Ahmed flick Encounter didn’t, even if a few of the climactic desert shots have a similar look; we learn to trust the main characters, and even if their journey is unlikely, we end up rooting for them, since having friends in high places is a dream that we can all share.
We Are Living Things was an official Slamdance 2022 selection and I’ll update links and details when the film can be watched in cinemas or at home. Thanks to Slamdance.