A Family Recipe
by Brody Rossiter
The Parkers are a typical working class family; a happily married mother and father, a young son and two beautiful daughters. However, when Mrs. Parker takes a nasty tumble outside the grocery store and drowns, the family’s wholesome image slips beneath the muddy water with her. Mr. Parker’s insidiousness begins to permeate his children’s psyches with a relentless fervour as they struggle to come to terms with the cruelty and heinousness he inflicts upon victims plucked from a nearby town. The presentation of the Parker daughters (emotively portrayed by Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner) and their new “duties” is perhaps the picture’s most affecting aspect. Small threads of normality are briskly ripped away from the girls as they maintain their father’s merciless cannibalistic traditions in the wake of their mother’s passing.
The gloomy, grey filter that lies atop of the action onscreen casts an undeniably depressing, yet nevertheless painterly hue; a bleak malaise accentuated by relentless sheets of rain and soft layers of dawn sunlight. Despite being set deep within America’s Delaware County, a distinctly bleak, Nordic style of presentation shapes the picture’s aesthetic and storytelling tone. Olive greens and washed-out blues are illuminated by the ugly hue of weak, mustard tinged light bulbs, while darkness ultimately reigns supreme upon both the colour palette and the film’s themes of imprisonment and the disrupted family unit.
As a rural murder mystery is sacrificed in favour of revealing a crimson stained family portrait (a visage that projects the many ugly yet distinct faces of Southern Gothic storytelling) We Are What We Are finds a menacing yet elegant foundation upon which to build its sadistic and increasingly brutal narrative of inherited madness and violent mania.