'Boy & the World' review: Joyous, grim & vibrant expressionistic masterpiece
The Brazilian animated feature "Boy & the World" (playing in additional cities Feb. 12) is - quite simply - a brilliant expressionistic masterpiece. Rarely is a film such a joyous, vibrant, heartbreaking and powerful tapestry of emotions and social commentary.
In short: A poor family living in the countryside is torn apart when the father must leave home to find work. His son embarks on journey across the world to find his father. (Watch the trailer)
"Boy & the World" is an utterly minimalist and dialogue-free film. Its simple plot allows the imagery to tell an emotionally powerful, epic journey of a little boy desperate to find his father. Virtually no dialogue is necessary because this story is so elegant and powerful executed. The little boy deeply misses his father and yearns to fill in the hole in his world where his father used to be. The minimalism of the art parallels the simplicity of a child's view of the world. This is a story presented through the wonder of a child's eyes and set in a fantastic and grim world -- but one that bears an unsettling resemblance to our world.
And it is in the boy's exploration of the world where this movie elevates from powerful emotional journey and becomes a profound work of art. As the boy's search for his father reveals a culture of people who must struggle to provide for their families. Although abstract, "Boy and the World" is not subtle: this a bleak social rhetoric on the plight of the working class who must toil just to survive. Hulking machines in grey-scale devour the vibrant palette of nature, belching out black clouds of exhaust while steadily automating the work once performed by human hands. "Boy & the World" gives a voice to the downtrodden.
This film's ultimate brilliance may be in telling the story through a child's point of view. Presenting the story through such simple and stark imagery allows this child's journey to tell a story of much deeper meaning. This story is so rich and layered that a beautiful, poignant and harrowing new depth is revealed after rewatching this mesmerizing work.
Final verdict: This masterpiece of animation is somehow innocent and profound, energized with the sheer joy of living and muted by the monotony of an increasingly industrialized world. "Boy & the World" is a poignant, touching and subversive work of art with a definitive social message and an exuberant zest for life wrapped in a heartbreaking hero's journey.
"Boy and the World" opens in additional theaters nationwide Feb. 12. This Academy Award-nominated animated film ('Best Animated Feature Film' category) is rated PG for thematic material and images.