Boy & the World (2013)

[original title: O Menino e o Mundo]

 

In terms of looks, Boy & the World is one of the most amazing animated films I have ever seen. Its animation is beautiful, unique, and inventive. Supporting the animation is a great soundscape that develops organically out of the world of the film. Boy & the World raked in prizes at various film festivals and award ceremonies, and it was nominated for an Oscar.

 

As I said, this film looks amazing. It is especially fascinating to see how everything in the design seems to emulate the perspective of a small child: trains are monstrous worms; and billboards have words on them, but they are gibberish, as they make no sense for a child who has not yet learned to read. And these are just two examples.

What this film unfortunately lacks is a real plot. The nameless little boy who is the film’s hero sets out on a quest to find his father who has gone into the city to find work. So much for the premise. What follows is a journey with many waypoints, none of which serve an actual plot (or the premise) but combine to illustrate a world-view about labour-relations, consumerism, environmental problems, dictatorship, and relations between the developed world and the developing world.

You may call this film leftist, and you would probably be right. And you might call it anti-American, and I wouldn’t blame you. But while none of the film’s sentiments are particularly subtle, none of them are overt enough to be necessarily fully understood by children. The film loses its particular qualities, especially its levity, whenever it tries to push an agenda; and the film is at its lowest point near the end when the film’s creator Ale Abreu decides to intersect his animation with real-life news footage showing pollution and deforestation, etc.

The film’s critique of capitalism and pollution is not only sanctimonious, it is also slightly hypocritical, as the film was partly sponsored by Petrobras, one of the world’s leading oil companies and also proud sponsor of many a Brazilian politician.

 

The greater problem for me lies in the fact that Ale Abreu could very easily have made all of his points and still kept the narrative intact. Instead, the film moves from waypoint to waypoint (pretty organically, I must admit) without getting us anywhere. In the last ten minutes, the film lost me completely, as the reality of the film’s world seemed to be broken down and the lives of several characters collapsed into one. Again, this is entirely unnecessary, it is unwarranted and artsy, and it does not only overexert the mental capability of children but also that of my poor self.

Also, as this film has virtually no dialog you need to pay attention to, and no real plot to follow, the film’s hypnotic mixture of sights and sounds starts to lull you in after a while. So, about an hour into the film, although I was not tired and it was barely 8pm, I was more than once very close to nodding off in the cinema.

 

All these problems aside, this is still a good film, and a great-looking film, and anyone interested in animation should see it, especially film students.

I guess this film, on the whole, is a 6.5 out of 10. But the animation itself, combined with the sound design, should be ranked much higher, 8.0 at an absolute minimum.

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