Well, I promise that this post is the last 2019-centric coverage before I move on to other specific years/ themes (not that this is the end of 2019 titles oh no there are still lots of good ones out there). For this part I decide to pick 3 smaller entries around the globe, with different art styles, aesthetics and target audiences. One from the respected female filmmakers about the harsh lives of people in Taliban, another is a manga-turn-anime tale about growing up, and the last is another addition to an all-time family-friendly classic from the UK. I hope you enjoy the piece.
The Swallows of Kabul (2019)
I watched this film back in 2019 Cannes, Swallows of Kabul is a film that I come to respect rather than outright loving it. Its critique look at the harsh treatments towards the people in Taliban, and to women in specific, is direct, if a bit too heavy-handed. In the film, we follow the two different couples and how their lives intertwine in an impactful ending- the ending so powerful that it sort of justifies the clumsy moments before the film gets there. The focus on women’s freedom is keenly observed, in the form of one of the female characters (her nude self-portrait reflects that), and Swallow of Kabul has some neat things to say about men’s stark treatments towards women. In one of its most inspiring moments, a writer, gets swept up by the moment, throws stones at the prostitute to death. It’s a grim scene for sure, but it sets the right tone for the film as he feels remorse for his action. The rest of the film sadly doesn’t top that morally complex moment (sparse for the ending), and the story takes a dark turn in one dull plot progression that Swallows of Kabul never reaches its full potential.
(3 / 4)
Children of the Sea (2019)
One of the best elements in this little gem is the absolute gorgeous and breathtaking art, be it the beautiful ocean views, or the sketchy thick lines in characters designs, Children of the Sea more than nails and elaborates on the look of the manga. It starts off strong as well, detailing Ruka’s encounter with the titular kids, Umi and Sora. Such a feat, I daresay, to create a setting felt so lived-in, with an interesting lead and the plot that brings so much potential. Sadly, halfway point, after the departure of one character, Children of the Sea loses the thread. It can be seen clearly that the anime adaptation omits a good bit of material from the manga source to make it more linear, and it makes sense that the staff do so, but their choice of what material they should adapt isn’t the best. The third arc, for example, goes for an extreme abstract approach that deals with existential concepts and while the segment itself is well-made, it doesn’t feel like it belongs to the rest of the story. Normally I am on the side of supporting risk-taking abstract pieces like that, but for this particular story it’s the sea lives and the characters themselves that are the main draws. In addition, the supporting cast feels underdeveloped as they are lacking in chemistry. At the end, however, I still feel that Ruka has growth a long way since we first met her, and that signals the fact that Children of the Sea’s third arc still has its merits, it’s just that compared to what the film promises in the first half, I can’t help but feel a bit let down.
(2 / 4)
Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon (2019)
Shaun the Sheep is back on the big screen, for the second time, and is still as entertaining as ever. While the series had reached its classic status in the last ten years or so, their movie sequels prove to be effortlessly charming and enjoyable. This time, Aardman Studio riffs off from classic sci fi about a lost alien kid who falls into the farm where Shaun and the sheep stay. As the film is dialogue-free, it instead relies on visual quirks and sounds to deliver and boy did it deliver. The comedic timing is flawless, and while some might argue that Farmageddon doesn’t break any new ground for the franchise and feels like an extended episode of its series, personally I see nothing wrong with these. This new alien kid Lu La is instantly adorable, and her chemistry with the always-charming Shaun is just overall solid. Add this to Aardman’s attention to small details and we have the film that is witty, charming and timeless.