Boy and the World
2014, PG, 80 min. Directed by Alê Abreu. Voices by Vinicius Garcia, Lu Horta, Marco Aurélio Campos.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film in the upcoming Academy Awards, this singular masterpiece of mixed-media animation is as beautiful, chaotic, depressing, and joyous as the world it depicts. Set in an unnamed countryside and cityscape that look an awful lot like Brazil, Boy and the World is terrific eye candy that also doubles as a meditation on community and a none too subtle indictment of the cattywampus state of global wealth disparity. This emergent socioeconomic subtext will likely sail far above the heads of younger viewers, who will rightfully watch the elegantly unfolding spectacle goggle-eyed and grinning. Notably, this is one of those rare pieces of filmmaking that weaves its riotously colorful spell on adults just as well if not better than it does on the playground set.
Director Abreu also penned the whimsical yet cautionary script, and he employs all manner of animation and complementary musical styles to tell the story of Menino (voiced by Vinicius Garcia), who travels from his rural, agrarian village to the favelas of the big city (presumably, Rio de Janeiro) in search of his father. That’s the entire plot in total, and it’s possible the elder figure isn’t even the boy’s father. Abreu strips the story (and by extension society itself) to the bones and then examines the marrow within. All is not well, but as viewed from the unique perspective of the boy, every new experience or encounter is kaleidoscopically colorful, momentous, and occasionally mournful.
All of the characters speak a gibberish that sounds akin to a pseudo-Portuguese patois as voiced by Charlie Brown’s teacher, Miss Othmar. As any animator will tell you, too often words just get in the way. Instead, Abreu utilizes decoupage, watercolors, chalk, crayons, stencils, and even still photos (as dun-colored gritty, city backgrounds).
Encapsulating the sheer, wonderful strangeness of Boy and the World in a written review is difficult. The alchemical mix of dynamic-yet-simple visuals with a naturalistic score by composers Ruben Feffer, Gustavo Kurlat, and Afro-Brazilian jazz icon Naná Vasconcelos feels organic, wild, but always perfectly right in its own anarchic way. Perhaps the best way to sum up Boy and the World is by saying it is what it is and what it is, is absolutely remarkable.