“Boy & the World” began its theatrical run in Houston yesterday at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park.
A small boy named Cuca lives in a small village with his parents. The energetic boy is curious, explores his surroundings often, and plays to his heart’s content. His father leaves one fateful morning in search of work. Cuca begins dreaming of his father coming home, being there by his side, and remembering key events he shared with his father, but his father doesn’t return. Cuca is eventually swept away by the wind and the boy is taken on an unbelievable journey in search of his long lost father.
“Boy & the World” was hand crafted by director Ale Abreu and the limited amount of dialogue is an imaginary language that is actually backwards Portugese. The film utilizes its imagery and soundtrack to tell its story. While it began as a documentary on Latin America, it evolved into an animated film. This nugget of information is a bit disheartening since the live-action segments of the film are the ones that feel like they don’t belong. The message of the film actually feels a bit watered down because of their inclusion, but it doesn’t take away from the overall satisfaction of the film.
As Cuca plays, the music is incredibly fanciful. He prances through nature and wildlife as the orchestrated music beats a heavy drum and pounds its chest the loudest during these moments. But the music changes tempo and style as Cuca’s surroundings become more intricate and ominous as the film progresses. Cuca is driven by the melody his father plays on his flute and this melody guides him from one point to the next in the film.
The film mostly looks like it was drawn in crayon with pastels and collages bringing everything else to life. The ideas in the film are extraordinary. The train that takes Cuca’s father away is like a mechanical snake with teeth and a smoking pipe. The cotton farm is elaborate and tiresome in execution. The city landscape is filled with floating cities and flying cars. Buildings seem to be standing on one another to form one mountainous city. The film illustrates that this world isn’t the place for a young boy and is even inappropriate at times with its anti-consumerism message. You find yourself wondering if this is really how the world is or just how Cuca sees it through his own eyes.
This will likely draw comparisons to “Ernest & Celestine” because of its childlike demeanor and use of a different medium for animation. However “Boy & the World” focuses on capitalizing on the whimsical and imaginative nature of childhood. At the beginning of the film, the animation and music of “Boy & the World” is rich, vibrant, and colorful almost as if to illustrate how pure Cuca’s childhood is. Cuca’s adventure has the character evolving and reacting to the world as his life is tainted by consumerism, technology, and the physical toll manual labor takes on an individual.
“Boy & the World” is like an animated and carefree burrito wrapped around a documentary. Its visuals have a simple and basic design, but the way they’re presented is breathtaking to behold and executed with vivid color and creative ideas. Ale Abreu’s animated film feels like a child’s crayon drawing that was stuck to the fridge with a magnet that was somehow brought to life, set free into the world, and stumbled onto an adventure that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or heard.