An undocumented migrant searching UFO abductions finds a kindred spirit under the control of a sadistic pimp. We Are Living Things follows a dark and eerie journey into the mysteries of human attachments. Two seemingly disparate protagonists on the fringes of American society connect while escaping into the unknown. Their relationship blossoms over a shared trauma that defines them both. The film exquisitely fuses noir and science fiction elements to establish a dangerous yet beguiling mood. We Are Living Things rivets until a final act that’s purposely ambiguous.
In Brooklyn, Solomon (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), a Mexican illegal alien, uses a metal detector to uncover a strange rock buried underground. He takes it back to his work space at the “Sure We Can” recycling center. Solomon has set up a satellite dish and radio transmitter. He’s allowed to live there as a handy man for the brusque owner (Alfonso Rey). Solomon’s sent to fix the bathroom of another immigrant. He’s surprised that Chuyao (Xingchen Lü) also has a rock similar to one he found.
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Solomon follows Chuyao to her job working at a nail salon. He soon discovers that she’s indebted to Tiger (Zao Wang); who masquerades her as his niece to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. Zao implants Chuyao with a chip to track her movements at all times. He prostitutes her to men with a twisted and disturbing fetish.
Chuyao notices that Solomon has been watching her activities. She tells him to stay away but he refuses. Tiger arranges a horrific incident that changes Solomon’s calculus on her situation. Chuyao is in imminent danger. They become magnetically drawn to each other on the run. Solomon needs her help to complete a mission that’s dominated his life for years.
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Something Sinister is Brewing
You wonder what Solomon’s doing and trying to achieve. His quiet tinkering with various devices intrigues in the opening minutes. Solomon then observes like a hawk as Chuyao’s shuttled around by the repugnant Tiger. The inky blackness of foreboding night juxtaposed by the vibrant neon of Asian parlors. There’s something sinister brewing that forces Solomon’s hand. Director/co-writer Antonio Tibaldi, primarily known as a documentary filmmaker (Thy Father’s Chair), builds first act tension without revelatory dialogue. He weaves gripping exposition through imagery and action. We Are Living Things has extraordinary moments of silence.
The film takes a different path once Solomon and Chuyao are together. They are hurt and broken by past events that have thrust them together. Chuyao has been trafficked and abused but still retains her delicate nature. Solomon’s hardscrabble existence chiseled him like a weapon. He does what’s needed to accomplish goals. Their feelings grow as the bridge of uncertainty between them narrows on a road trip. They become a lock and key. Opening their hearts to a possibility that’s literally out of this world.
We Are Living Things cannot be simply defined. There’s so much going on across multiple categories. Tibaldi puts criminal exploitation, science fiction, and romance into a narrative blender. The characters have a quiet sophistication that engulfs. The resolve isn’t straightforward. Some may be let down, but I was enthralled until to the end.
We Are Living Things is a production of Berta Film, EnMaze Pictures, No Permits Produktions, and Radical Plans. The film has English, Mandarin, and Spanish dialogue with subtitles. It will have a theatrical release on August 12th from Juno Films.