June 13, 2014
Writer/director Eric Shapiro takes a deep look at the complicated emotions that surround the way people eat with Living Things. Through the setting of what should be a nice family dinner, Shapiro reveals the layers of judgement and hurt that can exist between two people who live different lifestyles. Living Things is smart, well-acted and an engaging exploration of the power of humanity.
The film follows Rhona, a vegan yoga instructor who believes that the entirety of the universe is connected, and her father-in-law Leo, a blue-collar, conservative, meat-eater who has a knack for saying one thing and meaning another. Leo comes to Rhona’s home to have dinner with her and his son, Rhona’s husband, but when his son is delayed, Leo and Rhona have the chance to have the open and honest debate that they have previously been too polite to start.
The conversation starts out nicely enough with Leo apologizing to Rhona for something that he believes she said when he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, but it quickly progresses to a debate on the ethics of eating meat. Rhona and Leo each take turns presenting their arguments for and against eating animals until the debate progresses to a point of animalistic rage.
One of the things that made Living Things such a great viewing experience is that Shapiro took the care needed to fully develop both characters. It would have been easy to have created cardboard versions of the staunch vegan and the meat-loving republican, but Rhona and Leo are so much more. They both make intelligent arguments, but with such a deeply personal issue, they also take a bit of satisfaction in making the other person squirm.
Rhona is played to perfection by Rhoda Jordan, who outwardly keeps her composure as she conveys the rage she is feeling through her expressive eyes. Ben Siegler brought the character of Leo to life with his captivating screen presence and underlying humor. Although Leo says some pretty disturbing things in the film, he is an extremely engaging character that keeps viewer’s eyes glued to the screen.
Living Things has the honor of being officially endorsed by PETA. Bruce Wieland, a representative from the animal rights organization, says, “We appreciate the strong case that Living Thingsmakes for going vegan and that it does so in such a well-acted, engaging, and ultimately entertaining way. From the meat industry’s rampant abuse of animals and the environmental devastation that it causes to the tremendous health benefits of a vegan diet, there are many significant reasons why going vegan should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. We wish more movies focused on this life-saving message in as compelling a manner as Living Things, and we hope this fine film reaches the wide audience that it deserves.”
Living Things is a fantastic film that is as entertaining as it is insightful. It explores the complex duality that exists in humanity and challenges us to use compassion and empathy to rise above it.
Read the rest