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We Don't Belong Here

Sony Pictures // R // April 4, 2017
List Price: $9.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Olie Coen | posted April 29, 2017 | E-mail the Author

Director: Peer Pedersen
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Catherine Keener, Annie Starke
Year: 2017

Anton Yelchin's final role comes in We Don't Belong Here, a film that doesn't feature him enough. Obviously I don't mean they should have known that this would be the end of an exciting career and so given him more screen time; his death was an unimaginable tragedy that caught every film fan with a sucker punch. He should simply have been given more to do in this movie, as he was by far the best thing about it. Director Peer Pedersen also wrote the script, and has no experience in either department, that amateur status becoming all too clear all too soon. He was unable to create a film that audiences would want to watch, he underutilized his best player, and the resulting final product suffered because of it.

The Movie

The Green family takes dysfunction to the next level. The patriarch is gone, leaving a mansion behind. The matriarch is unstable and unhappy, making it difficult for her children to have a healthy relationship with her. Madeline, the only one with her shit together, has moved away. Elisa has become a famous pop star, but carries a very dark weight around. Maxwell is in and out of psychiatric hospitals, even attempting to kill himself. And the youngest, Lily, is stuck at home, becoming a woman in the shadow of all this chaos. Most of the Greens have been or could be diagnosed with mental disorders, none of them know what to do next, and all of them are on their way home to what will probably prove to be disaster.

We learn about the family through Lily's perspective, as she attempts to deal with her own bipolar disorder, fights against taking her medication, and dreads her thrice weekly visits to her kooky therapist. Lily notices the small details in her life, but fears that her mind isn't her friend, that it will ultimately lead to her demise. She tries to lead a normal teenager life; running track and chasing boys. But she also has her sister Elisa's secret journal, in which dark secrets are divulged, forcing her to face the ugly truth of the world instead of enjoying this time in her youth. When the family throws a party and all the children make their way home, events will spiral out of control even more than usual, and no one will ever be the same.

The film ends with "For Anton", as his final projects have begun to do, and every time I read those words I'm sad all over again. It's perhaps meaningless to mourn a star you didn't know, but I can't help feeling that I watched him grow as an actor, that I rooted for him along the way, and that the world has been cheated out of a spectacular talent. It's good to see him one more time, and I wish the director had used him even more, although he had no idea this would be anyone's last chance to do so. Anton was special, he was one of the best young actors in the business, and he stole the show here in this film, a movie that otherwise had very few positives.

Riley Keough was perhaps the only other, and I've begun to appreciate her whenever she pops up; she's got that It Factor that you so rarely see. I don't think the same can be said for anyone else in this film: Dever, Keener, Starke. And the side actor choices were baffling to me, comedic reliefs that didn't work in Maya Rudolph and Molly Shannon. Even Cary Elwes showed up, and everyone knows that's not a good sign. The entire movie began to take on a very confusing aspect, as you watched hesitantly and questioned frequently. The story was strange, the layout even more so, the casting choices were weird, and in the end I was more curious as to how anyone could think what they were watching was any good than I was anxious to know what would happen next with this family. I think it is clear that Pedersen didn't know exactly what he was doing, or that perhaps his vision failed to translate onto the screen.


Video: With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen), the video quality of the DVD is nothing to get excited about. There is very little attention shown to the quality of the picture, or ever the cinematography of each scene. There is some attempt at style, but mostly this is an emotional, character-driven drama that relies very little on its technical aspects.

Audio: The disc is done in English 5.1 Dolby Digital, with an option of French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles can be selected in a number languages, including English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chines Traditional, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai. The audio quality is fine, nothing to write home about, although there is a nice backing soundtrack that fits the mood of the film.

Extras: The only special features are four trailers: Baby Baby Baby, Spin Out, Cross Wars, The Driftless Area.

Final Thoughts

Rent It. The highlight of the film is seeing Anton Yelchin one last time; other than that, there isn't much. Yelchin is reason enough to watch most anything that his name appears next to, even a movie that doesn't quite have the ability to gather together its intentions, to form them into something either audiences or critics can enjoy. Director Peer Pedersen might have been in over his head after conjuring up an interesting story that potentially could have made for an interesting movie. It just didn't translate into a solid picture this time, so perhaps we can give him another shot the next time he takes on a project. The video of the DVD is only OK, the audio is also merely fine, and there are only a couple extras, so look elsewhere for technical flashes. Also look elsewhere for a stirring drama, unless you'd just like to watch Anton again.

Olie Coen
Archer Avenue

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