Not rated, but it gets really sad. The most noticable thing about this movie, which made me think that this movie was going to be R, was the fact that the donkey is beaten savagely with baseball bats. There's death kind of pervading the whole movie, both figuratively and metaphorically. Then there's a very weird incest thing that I can't make heads or tails of. Still, not rated.
DIRECTOR: Jerry Skolimowski
I actually don't know what to think about this movie. This was something running through my head the entire movie. I genuinely was saying, "I don't know if I absolutely love this movie or absolutely hate this movie." I don't know why a middle ground was not an option. I'm going to lean into love, mainly because my wife did not care for this movie. Sure, it's preachy as can be, but that almost made it a bigger sell for me.
EO has the bones of a short film. I think I said the same thing about All That Breathes, but I straight up hated that movie. There is something that is so simple about the structure of EO that it almost makes its point in the first minute of the movie. This is another one of those, the-writer-hates-himself-for-doing-this moments, but I am going to compare something to Family Guy. Yeah. That's me today. I'm drinking water out of a plastic cup and comparing an animal rights film to Family Guy. While I wouldn't say that I'm necessarily a Family Guy fan, I find it entertaining. If I had to break down what makes Family Guy funny is the notion of taking an absurd concept and extending it to the point beyond belief. I know, there's more to Family Guy than just gags that go on too long. But that's what EO is. There's this message that people take animals for granted. Even those who are animal advocates tend to be very in-the-moment with their animal activism. I'm sure that's probably true about a lot of activism. I don't see as many Black Lives Matter signs like I used to. We, as a people, get bored quickly. The entire film is almost pointing out how we only treat animals well if they are in our direct field of vision, and even that isn't absolute.
The inciting incident of this movie is the animal rights group pulling Eo away from his circus family. It's a weird moral conundrum. Infamously, circuses suck for animals. They abuse the animals so that they do tricks on repeat over-and-over. It's a crummy life. The protesters should be the good guys in this story. But the movie is about the aftermath of this choice. After all, Eo has a pretty good life with his circus co-star (who honestly treats Eo almost sexually, but that could have been a misread of the scene because there's nothing about that in the Parents' Guide.) The notion comes from the idea that we have good intentions, but we honestly don't follow through. It's an arguement that the pro-choice movement has been saying about adoption for a long time. Once the problem is solved, from a human perspective, poof, all followthrough is gone. Nothing says a movie is truly progressive than attacking the base. It's good. They absolutely should / the world is a terrible place and its never going to get better.
Eo then goes through all of these sad adventures of people taking the donkey for granted. Oddly enough, the worst I felt for him, shy of him getting nearly beaten to death, was his time at the horse farm. (Also, is Eo a boy or a girl? Is everything just a social construct? Should I even be spending this digital real estate talking about this?) The horse farm bummed me out. It wasn't because he was getting ignored compared to the circus. It wasn't even because the trophy case falling over wasn't even his fault. It just made me realize that horses seem like the jerks of the equine world. (I don't quite know where donkeys fall in compared to horses, so let's leave it at laying my ignorance bare while someone gets furious on my lack of knowledge.) I want to say that the director is stating something about pretty animals here. These horses are brushed and groomed daily. There's an almost slavery element going on with the footage, in the sense that there's something inappropriate about the dichotomy between beauty and abuse in these scenes. But I'm going to make the connection between the horses and Eo and dolphin-safe tuna. Everyone at that horse farm is obsessed with maintaining the perfect environment for these horses, that seem kind of angry all the time. But the donkey gets nothing.
It's not like they're abusing the donkey. It's just neglected. The donkey is fine. Heck, if this was another movie, it would just be scenes where the donkey is an observer. But considering that the donkey is our protagonist and the subject of the themes, it comes across as cold and empty. That's a lot of this movie. There is a moment of absolute cruelty, coupled with the end of this movie. But for the most part, it is the apathy that animals get. This is a bit of me stepping out of my comfort zone. I'm infamously not an animal person. I'm the guy who gets mad when someone saves the dog instead of a person in a movie. But I'm also trying to be a better person all around, so I'm going to embrace the message of the movie for what it is. Yeah, there is something that comes with respect for nature that the movie is stressing with these animals. Maybe the goal isn't necessarily the notion of equality, which is something my brain won't even comprehend. Maybe it is a matter of fundamental respect. Maybe I'm assuming that I want my movies to be so world changing. Maybe EO is just shooting for fundamental respect for animals, which I can get behind.
I want to talk about the hardest scene to watch. I'm not going to talk about the incest scene outside of the fact that it detracts from the movie because it has no ties to the story outside of the fact that it pulls in an actor who needs some scenery to chew. I want to talk about the baseball bat sequence. Man alive, I don't want to live in this world. I don't want to live in this world not just because that scene is shocking, but also because it felt the most real. There's a guy whose team loses a game. This guy screams skinhead and domestic terrorist and I don't want to think that people like that exist. But they totally do exist and probably in droves. Like, there's a motivation to this skinhead. He lost the game because the donkey brayed. But also, would he destroy a car because the horn went off? That's entirely possible and I'm not dismissing it. But also, can he not tell the difference between a living creature and an object? These are questions that make me think that we're not all built with a sense of empathy. It's just depressing.
I'm going to cut this one short. I don't have much to say. The message is pretty on the surface. Sure, there's a sense of silence behind this movie that is peaceful and haunting. Some people might consider it boring. I suppose the end is lightly cryptic, which I've already pointed out. My wife texted me the ending explained in the middle of the night, waking me up and forcing me to have "meh" thoughts about this movie since then. But it's a fine movie. Like many of the Academy Award films, it's just depressing. Thank God it isn't too long, but in a way it is, especially if it should have been a short film.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.