There are a lot of movies and shows on my Netflix and Hulu queue that I’ve been interested in watching. And you would think I would be making my way through that list slowly and methodically. It’s surprising how quarantine can zap away your energy so much that you can’t sit down and focus on a new show.
Seriously, I’m more concerned about making sure I don’t get scurvy and trying to survive with no direct human contact.
But, either way, I was finally able to watch the mind-bending, beautiful, confusing but simply drawn Boy and the World. I was hoping for a simple distraction, perhaps with a surprisingly deep message…
Well, I got the deep message and in spite of the animation style, the movie wasn’t simple at all. It’s a really good demonstration of how important medium and style are to telling a story – Complicated isn’t always best. Nor is hyper-realism.
The movie follows a young boy named Cuca, though he is not addressed as such during the movie. He lives a simple, peaceful life with his parents in a small village -until his father leaves to find work in the city.
Cuca follows and explores the world outside his village, with the animation becoming more and more complicated as he sees more. First, he meets an elderly man working in a cotton field and then a younger man who is working in a factory, and earns money as a street musician.
Cuca also sees other things – like workers at risk of losing their jobs to machines, a frightening army parade and young children preparing to rebel. Because of the nature of the film, none of this is ever given a concrete answer.
Which really works.
Most of the film is completely without dialogue. When the characters do speak, it’s in Gibberish (said to be backwards Portuguese) which leaves even more of the events up for interpretation.
I kind of take it as we’re seeing the events of the film through the eyes of a child, who doesn’t understand everything that is going on.
Up for interpretation
Because of the plot structure and writing, there is a lot about this film that is up for interpretation. A lot of other reviewers have taken the film as an argument against capitalism, globalization and a display of how mechanization is affecting culture.
Which is a valid interpretation. And I agree with it But I’m not looking into the themes so much as I am looking into the plot and how the director is going about conveying that message. The time and place of this film doesn’t matter.
That’s the least important thing here. It’s abundantly clear that the young men and older man future versions of Cuca. I don’t take this film to be taken realistically. Obviously he didn’t time travel. Instead, I see the film as the older versions of Cuca looking back at how they saw the world as a child and mourning the lost innocence; they are trying to remember how they first saw the world for what is.
The world Cuca sees in the city is darker and more complex than his village, which has simple shapes and colors -though sometimes they’re in complex patterns. But the city, is busy. There’s always something going on. The colors are darker and more muted. The backgrounds are busy even if the buildings all kind of look the same.
It’s also a good contrast to how the people are drawn. They’re basically stick figures. They look precisely like a child’s drawings.
And there are time when it looks like pieces of magazines have been pasted onto the faces of TV anchors and other art styles get mixed in that look really cool. The only part that confused me, and that I cannot make much sense of, is when Cuca watches factories make clothes. And then live-action clips of people working and machines in farm field play.
I’m not sure what to make of it.
But still, I think the art style in general lends itself to my interpretation -the people aren’t detailed because Cuca can’t remember what everyone looks like. His brain is filling in the pieces.
I really do adore this film’s art-style. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
One of my favorite sequences is at the beginning when Cuca is listening to music -slowly a kaleidoscope of images appears on screen, slowly getting more and more complex. It’s simple and a really interesting way to introduce us to the world.
And I found a lot of odd beauty in the city when Cuca is trying navigate it with the Young Man. There seems to be miles of stairs and long-windy twisty streets, made only more frightening by the kind of establishments he passes.
Everything in the city is big. These scenes are busy, but not cluttered and messy. It looks horrible and not the kind of place anyone would want to live or be happy living in, but Cuca still manages to find beauty and things to make him happy.
For example, the Young Man wears a rainbow poncho that obviously makes Cuca very happy. He also likes the music he hears. And there are scenes of some of the local people, who are implied to be indigenous, still keeping their culture alive and playing music and dancing in spite of everything.
It’s a really nice, uplifting message
The one thing I always appreciate about films, with little or no dialogue, is that they always end up having the most universal stories. There’s no need to explain things. And they have to have the images convey the whole story.
That’s not easy to do and I’m always impressed when it’s done as well as this. Plus this is a story that can enjoyed by people of all ages. Kids will enjoy it for the bright colors and seemingly fantastic adventure and will empathize with Cuca being lost and scared in a strange city.
Adults will appreciate seeing the mature themes, the animation, the complex story told through a simple medium, and the little bits of maturer ideas. They’ll also understand the bog scary world and probably be scared…wondering about their own kid will survive in this world.
But both will be satisfied with the ending. It’s not one of those movies where parents have to be scrambling for the occasional adult joke or references. It’s got something for everyone.
And that’s the scoop.
Year of release: 2013
Length: 80 minutes
Producers: Tita Tessler, Fernanda Carvalho
Director/Writer: Alê Abreu
Voice Actors: Vinicius Garcia, Felipe Zilse, Alê Abreu, Lu Horta, Marco Aurélio Campos, Cassius Romero
If you liked this review, read: “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury”–A universal tale from a Brazilian point of view