Review: Oscar nominated animated fantasy The Red Turtle is odd but mesmerizing

Michael Dudok de Wit's colourful fantasy about a nameless man left shipwrecked on a tropical island

Michael Dudok de Wit's colourful fantasy about a nameless man left shipwrecked on a tropical island The Red Turtle. Picture: Studio Canal - Credit: Studio Canal

Michael Dudok de Wit's colourful fantasy about a nameless man left shipwrecked on a tropical island goes off in some mad directions but it still mesmerised.

The Red Turtle (PG)

****

On the film equivalent of Antiques Roadshow the experts would have a devil of a job trying to date this dialogue free animation about a castaway on a desert island.

Nominated as Best Animated Feature at this year's Oscars, London-based director Michael Dudok de Wit's colourful fantasy centres on a nameless man, who is shipwrecked on a tropical island.


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Alone and left to his own devices, the man scours the island and gathers fruit as well as bamboo to build a raft. His first attempt to escape the island ends in disaster when a sea creature destroys the raft and forces him to retreat. The same fate befalls a second raft and when the man uses bamboo to build a third vessel, he is shocked to see a giant turtle with a red shell intentionally collide with the raft and end his escape bid.

When the creature subsequently crawls ashore in the dead of night, the vengeful and angry man lashes out with tragic and surprising consequences.

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Though some of the hand drawn animation is magical, it often feels like something that could've been lying on a shelf for four decades.

The film opens with the Ghibli logo, but almost all the names in the end credits are French. The large cloudy skies are pure Ghibli, but nobody has the big expressive anime eyes.

Which may be at the root of one of the film's problems: though we spend the whole 80 minutes with the castaway, we never really get to know him.

Audiences may feel that lack of connection in the second half when the film goes off in a surreal tangent, that I won't reveal here, and you look into his eyes for some guidance as to what's happening, only to be met with dark slits.

The second half has the feel of a tacky 1970s mass market painting (that naked couple on the wings of a giant swan) or a Tintin adventure that has gone off on some mad direction. I have strong misgivings about this, and multiple frustrations yet I was mesmerized by it overall.

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