Boy & the World
BOY & THE WORLD, rated PG, in Portuguese with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3.5 chiles
Brazilian filmmaker Alê Abreu’s Oscar-nominated animated feature depicts the journey of a nameless stick figure of a boy as he searches for his father. His story starts in the country where the titular “boy,” driven by loneliness, sets off to the city where his father has gone to find work. Ostensibly, it’s a journey of self-discovery, a country bumpkin feeling his way through a sometimes-frightening, sometimes-fascinating adult world that, at times, breaks in upon the wonderful hand-drawn animation in the form of real stock footage. Abreu tells a captivating story, and the little boy will win a lot of hearts with his naive earnestness while he dodges falling objects dropped from cranes, floats on a puff of smoke through a factory, is pursued by shadowy figures, traverses smog-filled, traffic-clogged cities and witnesses the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest — all without uttering a single line of dialogue or losing track of his singular purpose. The encroachment of civilization on natural habitats is a consistent theme. He runs through a field of wildflowers to bring water from a river choked with trash to nourish a growing plant. Such are the film’s contradictory images.
Boy and the World starts off as a blank slate. The pure white screen gives way slowly as objects and colors fill the frame. The film swings between simple renderings and more complex and detailed imagery to tell its story. The animation is old-fashioned, a refreshing change from computer-animated features. The pale, skeletal adults the boy meets, with their deep-set dark eyes, are the angst-ridden agents of the industrial world, but it’s a world Abreu evokes with music and color, even when at its most malignant. This is, quite simply, a beautiful film with a character endearing enough for children to enjoy and themes that will appeal to adults. — Michael Abatemarco
An old-fashioned kid