“The Red Turtle” is a step away from Studio Ghibli’s anime comfort zone and a step toward sublime simplicity. Animation has become very flashy over the past decade with complex-looking characters like Hank from “Finding Dory” and scenery that is so realistic that you will question whether it is animated. “The Red Turtle” doesn’t have any of that. Instead, it focuses on creating beautiful art in motion as it aspires beyond the typical animated kid’s movie. This fable is told without dialogue, but the animators manage to develop an incredible array of emotion in the characters through facial expressions and body language. It was a gutsy call that obviously paid off with its Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. The animation style is reminiscent of an illustrated children's book, but the content serves as a reminder that animated films don't have to be exclusively targeted at children. I can imagine a group of kids giving up on the film after 10 minutes to chaotically run around the room; meanwhile, the adults are all glued to the screen, mesmerized by the animation of shadows as the sun moves over the island. Its beautifully dramatic score helps to engage our emotions from start to finish. Whether it is the growing sense of helplessness that we feel with each attempt at building the raft or the contentedness of laying beneath the stars, the emotions transcend beyond the film and into our hearts. One big warning: Don't spend the entire film searching for a metaphor because, as far as I can tell, there isn’t one! The film’s supernatural element appears to be pure fantasy and we are meant to walk away from the film with a moral instead of a deeper meaning. The style of the film appeals to adults while the story maintains its childlike simplicity. “The Red Turtle” has beautiful artistry, impressive sound design, and a heartwarming story. It definitely deserves to be represented alongside one of the strongest animated classes of any Oscar season that I can remember.
[Pictured: I never realized how much artistry could be added through a film through shadows]