Review: ‘The Red Turtle’ accomplishes so much with such a simple approach Special

Posted Jan 26, 2017 by Sarah Gopaul
Oscar-nominated ‘The Red Turtle’ tells the enchanting story of an improbable, loving family and earns Studio Ghibli its sixth nod for best animated feature.
A scene from  The Red Turtle
A scene from 'The Red Turtle'
While Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks dominate conversations about animated features, Laika and Studio Ghibli usually make it into the mix too; though they don’t always have the same level of name recognition, they’ve been responsible for some of the most acclaimed films of the last 20 years, including several Oscar-nominated titles. Their styles greatly differ as do the types of stories they choose to tell, but one is almost never disappointed with the end product. Studio Ghibli’s latest movie is somewhat of a departure even for them as they partnered with a foreign animator to make their first non-Japanese picture, The Red Turtle.
A man is shipwrecked on a deserted island alone with no supplies. His only neighbours are the native wildlife, consisting of mostly birds and crabs. Desperate to return to civilization, he attempts to build a raft. But each time he sets sail, the craft is capsized and destroyed by a giant red turtle. He’s eventually overtaken by his anger and attacks the creature. But before he can complete a new raft, he finds a woman on the island. Over time he loses his desire to leave, and they fall in love and have a son. He grows up a very capable young man with unmatched wilderness skills; but his curiosity of the world beyond their island may be too strong to resist.
Interestingly, even though this is the studio’s first overseas collaboration, it is not connected to any particular language because it is entirely silent. Based on the quality of his short film, Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit was invited to collaborate with the animators at Studio Ghibli. His style is dissimilar from former lead creator Hayao Miyazaki’s films as it’s inherently less fanciful and includes far fewer characters, but it more importantly demonstrates comparable heart and striking beauty. In spite of having no voices, the characters’ emotions are discernibly powerful; their love – as a couple and family – particularly leaps off the screen.
Technically the film also excels. The colours consist of a warm, rich palette of browns, reds and oranges, which contrast with the cool blues and greens of the surrounding ocean and trees. Blended with simple but expressive drawings, audiences will be entranced by the beautiful story unfolding about how life eventually comes full circle. Moreover, the amazing score enthralls audiences as it serves the dual purpose of complementing the characters’ actions while also expressing their emotions since no words are spoken.
These films don’t always receive as much attention as their larger studio counterparts, but it’s managed to earn an Academy Award nomination — and deservedly so. It’s definitely one of the most accomplished and nuanced animated films of 2016.
Director: Michael Dudok de Wit