My kids handled it really well. It's PG and a well deserved PG. There's very innocent nudity in this movie and I think what little nudity there is from a distance. There was a weird awkward moment with my six-year-old. The couple on the island have a baby. They met on the island. My daughter asked, "How did they get married if no one else is there?" I told her that it was a very good question and that was that. You know what they say about good parenting? The best parents dodge tough questions for other days, right? That's a thing. PG.
DIRECTOR: Michael Dudok de Wit
It's a Ghibli movie that isn't even Japanese! It had a red production logo card with Totoro on it! I didn't even know that Ghibli imported film. Regardless, it is one of those movies that is totally deserving of the Ghibli name. It's so funny thinking about what makes a movie look Japanese in terms of art. The Red Turtle has a Tintin style to it. Is it a national animation school that teaches cultural style? Regardless, I like French comics and animation. I won't fight having a gorgeously animated movie that has that French design to it. People told me that this is one of those movies that was going to make me cry. It's just because I'm broken inside that I didn't cry, but it is one of those movies. Go into it knowing that it was a real possibility.
This is also a movie that falls within a very specific subgenre. I saw All is Lost a few years ago. That was borderline the same movie for a good portion of the movie. It's so funny that the survival at sea movie is the silent film. It makes a lot of sense. There's no one to talk to. I think that I would be talking a lot simply out of boredom, but then again, I write an essay a day just to talk to someone. There would just be miles of shoreline reviewing movies that I never got to review being washed away by the shore. I'm sure I'd be writing, "Pun intended" to the heavens and hating myself every second. But it is a good time to be experimental as a filmmaker. De Wit is smart to have this be the film without dialogue. If you are going that far to have most of the movie silent, it is a far stronger choice to go the whole way. I mean, there is the abandonment of reality. If I had a kid on an island with nothing to do, I would try teaching him everything, even if it didn't lead to anything. I suppose that happened to some extent. The man does try drawing animals and people and the rest of the world. It has to be implied that the boy learned all about the world outside of the island. But the silence also leads to the director having to pull double duty to define their relationship. Everything about the man, his wife, and the boy has to be told through action. That's probably what works, too. The movie has this mystery about it that both ties into the external conflict and the internal relationships between the characters. The relationship between the man and the woman is built out of violence. As you can tell, especially if you've seen this movie, I'm being really intentionally cryptic. The violence makes a ton of sense within the context of the film and it is odd that a relationship works out of that violence. It is supernatural, I can at least say. But that relationship is so touching. I suppose (and I really don't want to cheapen the film) that the movie plays up the whole nature of the hypothetical situation of "if you were stuck on an island" or "if you were the last man in the world." That's the movie. The man and the woman were natural enemies based on their situation. The woman didn't want the man to leave the island. The man wanted to leave the island. Because the woman is somehow supernatural, we don't know if this is out of selfishness or the universe telling him that he was destined to be there. The movie is simultaneously tragic and joyful. It's weird. (I hate dancing around spoilers, but I also really like the idea of keeping this one cryptic.) It is easy, also, to embrace the fact that they were going to be lovers. After all, the rules change when you are on an island. I've thought about the theological merits of being stuck on an island and that's why I don't travel very often. Regardless, the internal relationships allow us to skip what brings them together.
The thing that does really puzzle me about their relationship is the thing that The Shape of Water wanted me to confront. This movie really avoids it. There is simply an understanding that they are somehow equals. Is it because she looks human? Is that what makes it cool? I don't know, but the woman in this movie acts more human than the creature in The Shape of Water. She seems to be a being outside of the universe. (I'm really teetering on spoilers here.) But as great as the relationship is with the woman, I am more interested in the relationship with the son. First of all, as a dad, I can't imagine how to raise a child on an island. I know that for generations, people raised children to adulthood without incident. But I also know that mortality rates were infamously bad. Watching this kid run around this island, I just kept thinking that it was a death trap. This also reminds me of the most terrifying thing in the movie for me. The kids, even Henry, had no problem with the scene with the high walls. I must have a bit of claustrophobia in me because this was also the scariest element of The Descent for me. When he fell, I swear my blood pressure spiked through the roof. It is a genius way to establish what the child is, but I just needed it to be okay. But the kid seems more human than supernatural. The story, at a certain point of the movie, becomes about the little kid. I like it no better or worse, but I appreciate the shift in the film. It becomes an interesting study of how someone can grow up free of civilization. I know that we've gotten that story with The Jungle Book or Tarzan, but this somehow feels more more natural. There are no adventures. There are joyful moments and there are tragedies. These moments are bigger than my life, but they are just as grounded as my life. There's no giant action sequences. These are real people dealing with their very specific environment. That environment, and I hate how cliche this sounds, is a character in a way. By the end of the movie, I have become intimate with that island. At one point, a character swims out pretty far and looks back at the island and it is way bigger than I thought it would be. I suppose that the man probably explored that island earlier on in his time there and then just got comfortable with the same locations time and again. It's cool because these moments get a sense of history. The movie takes place over the course of the adult man's entire adult life. These locations stay pretty static for the most part (with the exception of one major event) and they gain memories. It is odd to think of the man building rafts at the beginning of the movie. I shared the man's frustration as raft after raft were destroyed. I was also wildly impressed with how big those rafts got at some points. But by the end of the movie, those rafts faded into memory, simply being a thing along the line with painting a room in a house that has been occupied for fifty years. I remember painting my son's room at the old house. But that room moved beyond the pride I had of painting that room. It gained so many memories and it is odd that it now exists without me seeing it. We recently moved into a new house and it's odd to think that this house will one day completely lose its novelty.
The movie is absolutely beautiful. Ghibli consistently releases movies that impress and astound. I really like that this is under the Ghibli banner. I think of movies like The Breadwinner that sometimes don't get the attention that they deserve. I feel like the Ghibli production company gives a movie value and attention when it wouldn't necessarily do that sometimes. I hate to say it, but it also might have my secret favorite runtime: 1 hour and 20 mintues. I know. It makes me a bad person. But it is also the perfect length to tell this story, especially considering that there is no dialogue. I don't know. I don't know if I would ever own this movie, but I really like it. Will I say that the kids loved it? They definitely liked it, but that was them being the most mature versions of themselves. It's no Lego Batman, but I'm proud of them for giving this one a chance.
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.