Boy & the World

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER -

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

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