Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
The Red Turtle - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Red Turtle
Directing: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: A-
Animation: A-

Of all the Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Feature, The Red Turtle will be of least interest to children. It may be only 80 minutes long -- perfect for the story it tells -- but it has no dialogue, and has relatively adult themes. This is one of those more "intellectual" cartoons, to a degree that I felt like some of it went over my head. In the end I found it rather mystifying. What did I just watch?

Well, what was on display was some pretty spectacular traditional, hand-drawn animation, I can tell you that much. The lines that draw the few human characters are rather simple, and the same could be said of some of the small island creatures -- crabs, birds, baby turtles -- but as the film goes on, more and more wide shots of this deserted tropical island prove genuinely impressive. The attention to detail is extensive, and plenty of shots could find a suitable place as a framed work of art.

I guess you could say there is some dialogue in this movie. Well, just one word. "Hey!" We see the castaway, and later his son, utter this more than once. But that's it. Otherwise the voice work is limited to grunts and breathing.

To writer-director Michael Dudok de Wit 's credit, the story is always compelling. For the first third or so of the film, the castaway washes up on the beach, and we just follow him around as he adapts to and copes with his new, solitary environment. In essence, it's an animated version of the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, but without Wilson the volleyball. None of this really gets goofy, either. It's all pretty straightforward. And the man, with nothing but time on his hands, builds a rather large and elaborate raft out of bamboo tree trunks. He takes it out onto the sea, only to have an unseen animal destroy it from below. This happens three different times -- until, well into the film, he finally discovers the culprit to be the title character.

Such as it is, anyway. The castaway finds the sea tortoise on the beach, and in wild frustration, flips it onto its back and leaves it to die. (I told you this isn't exactly a children's movie.) And it's here that Dudok de Wit introduces a fantasy element that lasts through the rest of the story. Are we meant to think this woman he spends the rest of the story with is actually the turtle? It would very much seem so; the bigger question is whether to regard it as actual magic or as a figment of the man's desperately lonely imagination. One option holds no logic and the other is pretty damned depressing. In other words: I don't get it.

But, clearly, we are meant to get what we want out of it: the viewer is challenged to come to his or her own conclusions. For my part, I couldn't quite decide what to make of it. That really gets rendered a secondary criticism when considered against the impressive animation and how compelling Dudok de Wit keeps the story without the use of any dialogue. At times, as with a sequence involving a tsunami, it's truly riveting. I wouldn't recommend this movie for kids, but it's certainly worth seeing, and given the sometimes darker lighting that could easily obscure key details on a television screen, it's worth seeing on the big screen.

THE RED TURTLE HAS . . . a red turtle. OR DOES IT?

Overall: B+
Leave a comment