Hot Press - - Critical Mass -

Di­rected by Lee Unkrich. Star­ring An­thony Gon­za­lez, Gael Gar­cía Ber­nal, Ben­jamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach. 105 mins. In cine­mas now

4.5 / 5

Pixar has long been the cham­pion of mis­fit com­mu­ni­ties and uniquely forged fam­i­lies; char­ac­ters who don’t be­long any­where, de­cid­ing to be­long to each other. But with Coco, Pixar’s vi­brant new ex­plo­ration of Día de Muer­tos, we’re in­vited to ex­plore the im­por­tance of truly un­der­stand­ing and valu­ing our fam­ily mem­bers, liv­ing and dead.

An­thony Gon­za­les voices 12-year-old Miguel, an ide­al­is­tic young boy grow­ing up in the Mex­i­can town of Santa Ce­cilia. In de­fi­ance of his fam­ily’s ban on mu­sic, Miguel spends his time se­cretly teach­ing him­self gui­tar and wor­ship­ping the songs of the late, great Ernesto de la Cruz (Ben­jamin Bratt), a home­grown folk singer who be­came a star.

When an en­counter in Ernesto de la Cruz’s mau­soleum pro­pels Miguel into the Land of the Dead, he must track down his de­ceased fam­ily mem­bers and get their bless­ing in or­der to re­turn to the liv­ing world.

Coco’s charm, wit and emo­tion come from its glo­ri­ously colour­ful im­mer­sion in the cus­toms and folk­lore of Día de Muer­tos, which aren’t merely evoked by the film, but lie at its very core. Mul­ti­coloured pa­pel pi­cado tis­sue ban­ners tell sil­hou­et­ted sto­ries all their own, al­tar-like ofren­das hold pho­to­graphs of loved ones lost, and marigold petals cre­ate a glow­ing golden-orange bridge that joins the lands of the liv­ing and dead. The lat­ter in par­tic­u­lar is a spec­tac­u­lar, fan­tas­ti­cal, flu­o­res­cent-bright city of skele­tons, ale­bri­jes, and mari­achi mu­sic.

Frida Kahlo puts on hi­lar­i­ously sur­real plays, and Ernesto de la Cruz’s poignant song ‘Re­mem­ber Me’ makes all the skele­tons swoon – though in true te­len­ov­ela fash­ion, de la Cruz may not be all he ap­pears.

Coco’s cre­ativ­ity and joy­ful­ness is al­ways rooted in tra­di­tion, and Miguel’s ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes a truly emo­tional com­ing-of-age story. He learns not to idolise celebri­ties, but the fam­ily mem­bers who came be­fore him, and those in front of him now, lov­ing him fiercely.

Coco: the Stones head out on tour again

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