We Are Boats is a new fantasy film written and directed by James Bird. It follows a spirit who, trying to earn the closure she so desperately seeks following her own untimely death, works to provide that closure to others. It has played at festivals including the AFI World Peace Initiative Film Festival and the Orlando Film Festival.
For a concept as intriguing as this, it’s a shame that the end result isn’t particularly interesting at all. The idea of an agency of spirits that works to provide closure to people before they die is really cool. Unfortunately, this is not explored in any deep way, so much of the mythology surrounding the agency is left ambiguous.
It also feels like the premise is wasted on a story that is significantly underwhelming. The movie is little more than a generic melodrama, and not a compelling one at that. It seems like the film was aiming to have a subtle, smaller-scale story, and that simply wasn’t compatible with the complex world which it was trying to build.
One of the most noticeable issues with the script is that it feels extremely contrived. Large, sprawling ensemble pieces like this almost always struggle with this issue. Because there are so many different storylines, they have to be tied together to keep the audience’s attention while the movie jumps between them. The way in which these storylines are tied together feels cheesy and ridiculous, even within the already fantasy-based context of the story.
The film also feels relatively weak in terms of character development. All of the characters fit very clear archetypes and don’t do very much to defy them over the course of the movie. Because of this, it becomes hard to relate to or even care about them. Had the characters actually been given personalities, they would have been much more sympathetic and the film would have been more compelling as a whole.
That being said, the actors do manage to give relatively strong performances despite the weak material they were given. The biggest standout is likely Graham Greene, who gives a small but powerful supporting turn. Although it may not be among his greatest work, Greene is still able to make the character one of the best parts of the movie through his normal charm. The rest of the cast, including Angela Sarafyan, Uzo Aduba, and Luke Hemsworth, are solid as well.
In technical terms, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. Although the cinematography by Stefan Colson is solid, with some interesting shots and some unique visuals that really drive home the fantasy elements, the color scheme of the movie is rather muted. The film as a whole looks and feels cold and grey. For a movie that is supposed to be emotionally-driven, this wasn’t really effective.
Overall, We Are Boats was a rather disappointing film. Despite a strong cast and an intriguing premise, it never really manages to come together because of the overwhelming melodrama.
We Are Boats opens in theaters March 8 and is available on DVD and VOD on March 26.