“Too much muchness.” I first encountered this phrase in a review by the late, great Roger Ebert. As one can surmise by the terminology, he was referencing the way in which a movie’s ambitions outgrew itself. The story was unfocused because it was trying to do too much, despite other noteworthy qualities. By the end of the philosophical waxings of We Are Boats, Ebert’s words were rattling around my head.
Francesca (Angela Sarafyan) meets a client in a darkened room. As she’s about to undress, the man tells her to keep her clothes on. He then goes on a rant. She then wakes up in a field in the desert where Sir (Uzo Aduba) offers her a job. Francesca now navigates the world as a spirit, appearing to those who need her most. During these encounters, Francesca tells the person that they either on their way to a more fulfilling life or teetering closer to death than ever before.
Lucas (Luke Hemsworth) and Ryan (Adriana Mather) are engaged to be married soon. Lucas invites his college buddy Freddie (Justin Cornwell) down for the festivities. Freddie arrives a few days before the big day, and Lucas asks a favor of him. Lucas wants to test Ryan’s loyalty, and since she and Freddie never met, his friend is the perfect person for the harebrained test. Meanwhile, Cliff (Graham Greene) discovers he is dying and wants to meet the daughter he never knew.
“Francesca now navigates the world as a spirit, appearing to those who need her most.”
Then there’s Michael (Jack Falahee) and Rachel (Gaia Weiss), an unhappily married couple, with Rachel cheating on her husband with his best friend. Meanwhile, Taylor (Booboo Stewart) and his boyfriend are working to intersect with everyone else at one time or another. Oh, and there’s a subplot where Francesca visits a homeless (?) woman because… Also, don’t forget that Sir pops in and out every so often to check in and that Francesca longs to see her daughter.
If those paragraphs read like a smorgasbord of characters, that is because it absolutely is. We Are Boats is one of those interconnected lives films, where people cross paths, and the significance of such is not fully understood until the end. The difference between this and Convergence or even the middling Crash is that those films establish all the characters very concretely before everyone’s universes collide in unexpected ways.
Here, very little information is known about any of the players. Francesca is good at her grim reaper-esque duties, though others wish she’d tone down the sex. She wants to visit her daughter, though the daughter will be unable to see Francesca. The reason Cliff was not around for his daughter is um, he just wasn’t there. Taylor and his significant other sure do exist in this movie. Rachel cheated on Michael a lot, and Michael hated life. Do you see the problem here?
“… elicits moving, compelling performances from a cast that deserves a more structured script with more in-depth characters.”
Each character is defined by those one or two traits and only those. Lucas suffers the worst due to James Bird’s poor scripting. He is such a douche that it is impossible to understand what Ryan sees in him. They have virtually no scenes together before Lucas springs his terribly thought out plan onto Freddie. Yes, Lucas’s proposal is meant to repulse the audience, but it works too well. The viewer has a hard time buying that this self-entitled prick could get anybody as caring or thoughtful as we learn Ryan is. This kills any investment in the story and characters, meaning there is nothing to really grip the viewer to the end of the movie.
We Are Boats shows great promise at points, in part because Bird is a better director than he is a screenwriter. While the cinematography is lifeless throughout, the transitions from our world to the ethereal plane on which Francesca meets Sir is very well done and visually dynamic. He ably goes from one story to the next without breaking stride. He also elicits moving, compelling performances from a cast that deserves a more structured script with more in-depth characters.
What is there left to be said about We Are Boats? Too much muchness, indeed.
We Are Boats (2019) Directed by James Bird. Written by James Bird. Starring Angela Sarafyan, Luke Hemsworth, Adriana Mather, Justin Cornwell, Uzo Aduba, Gaia Weiss, Jack Falahee, Booboo Stewart, Graham Greene.
5 out of 10 Gummi Bears