The Red Turtle: Like nothing you’ve seen before

The Red Turtle by Michael Dudok De WitThe Red Turtle by Michael Dudok De Wit

The Red Turtle by Michael Dudok De Wit fantasy movie reviewsHave you ever felt completely hypnotised by a movie? That was how I felt watching The Red Turtle, a story of — quite simply — survival and love. From the moment it started from until the second the credits rolled, I was fixated on the images unfolding in front of me: a man that washes up on a deserted island, his explorations of the beach and interior, his miraculous meeting with a mysterious woman, and the life they lead together, utterly cut off from all civilization (if you’re wondering where a red turtle fits into all this, I won’t spoil it for you).

Directed and co-written by Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is a collaboration between Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli, which brought us such films as The Artist (a black-and-white silent 2011 film) and Hayao Miyazaki’s entire repertoire (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, etc.) — fitting considering this is an animated film with absolutely no dialogue whatsoever (save for a few indistinct yells).

Though there are a few fantastical elements, for the most part the story skews close to reality, with figures and landscapes that look entirely natural. It helps draw you into this world, whether it’s the beauty of the bamboo forest, the endless ebb/flow of the waves, or the wildlife (which in the case of three curious crabs, occasionally provides the comic relief).

Despite the seeming simplicity of the plot, the fact that The Red Turtle deals with such weighty themes as life, love, isolation, humanity, family and survival means that it stays with you long after it’s finished. As mentioned, there is no dialogue throughout the film, but such is the beauty and vividness of the animation that it’s not needed at all. Just with body language and facial expression, we can see the despair, love, joy, fear and sadness in our tiny cast of characters.

The Red Turtle is a film that demands your full attention and no distractions; the time and space you need just to let its beauty wash over you. You could say it’s the movie equivalent of a stress reliever!


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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One comment

  1. Thanks for the review! I now plan to watch this tonight.

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