French director Michel Gondry builds a movie out of the real lives of kids on a New York City bus.

By Lindsey Bahr
March 08, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is known for creating dreamy, off-kilter visions. So for his latest feature the French director decided to tackle something truly crazy: reality.

In The We and the I (in select cities March 8), Gondry simply follows a group of teens in the Bronx on a city bus after their last day of school. ”Everything was filmed in the moving bus,” he says. ”We shot 20 days. Every day we had planned a little loop, so we could come back to the same location again and again to redo the take or change the angle.” The stop-and-go traffic was a problem for shooting and continuity, and Gondry admits that he sometimes wished he could default to his signature visual tricks.

As for his actors, he found them at a Bronx community center. He conducted workshops and interviews with a group of young adults and developed his script around their stories. Once on the bus, he explored how smartphones influence both real and virtual relationships among the kids. ”In the same space, in the bus, there is one level of communication from the mouth to the ear, and there is another level of communication that goes through the phone,” he says. ”They have to react to different levels of reality at the same time.”