I knew absolutely nothing about this film before I watched it. I hadn’t seen a review, a trailer or an interview with the creators, and I’ll be honest for about 30 minutes of its 80 minute run time I still didn’t know anything about it.
It is the tale of a man washed up on the shore of a (small) beautiful island in the middle of nowhere – or is it the tale of life, love and death? Alone, and naive he struggles to cope with island life and so begins his journey of escape… only to be thwarted by, you guessed it, a big red turtle. To continue with the plot further would be a disservice to anyone planning to watch it, but as a silent film, it leaves you with plenty of space to think and find the meaning. The meaning is certainly there and it will become clear to you in time so you don’t need to panic like I did, frantically assessing everything to find out what on earth it is all about.
The beautiful old school animation will wash over you, the film is soft on the eyes and ears. The main character reminded me of someone you would find on the back of a ‘What to do in the event of a crash’ aeroplane safety manual. Creating a modern film with old school hand draw style animation is like when Scorsese decided to film (most of) The Raging Bull in black and white. Just because the technology is available doesn’t mean it should be used. The animation fits perfectly and quite frankly it would have half the charm if it were animated in a 3D digital format.
The writer and director Michael Dudok de Wit deserves a lot of credit for breaking the mould left by big-budget Hollywood movies. It just goes to show there is no end to the angles and approaches one can be taken when trying to convey a message. He threw away 3D animation, he threw away a script and purely focused on the magic of visual storytelling.
It gripped me from the first minute to (almost) the last minute, with only the odd occasion when I found myself drifting off thinking more deeply about the topics it covers. Whilst that in itself is not a bad thing, it meant the film didn’t quite have my attention 100%.
It is probably the best-animated movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen, ooo, probably 5 or 6 of them by now. Even that seems unfair as it is better than the vast majority of non-animated films I’ve seen. If you enjoy thinking, beautiful filmmaking and are into the circle of life then you will enjoy this film. If you don’t like any of those things then we will never be friends.
Still though, it gets a fantastic 4 hot dogs out of 5.