Growing up is not only an essential part of life; it is also at once beautiful and at the same time horrifying. “Boy and the World” follows a nameless boy as he discovers the world. We take the journey with him as he takes in all of the beauty he discovers for the first time. We are also witness to his crushing disappointment as he finds out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Last year child psychiatrists were given a wonderful gift from Pixar in the form of “Inside Out,” a movie about how emotions functioned in a little girl and helped children all over the world better understand their feelings and how they work. “Boy and the World” is the next great gift in that this is a movie that properly explains that growing up is full of ups and downs (and manages to convey these feelings without the use of dialog).
To sell this as an educational tool would be to undermine the beauty of it though. Yes, I believe that the best kind of film gives us a chance to walk in another person’s shoes and see the world in ways we otherwise would not have, but they can also engage the mind. This is a movie that uses the tool of animation to not only tell a compelling story, but to ignite imagination. In a world of computer animated images, “Boy and the World” is about as traditional as it can be. Not only is it drawn by hand but it is also drawn with crayons. Or maybe it’s drawn with color pencils? It was hard to tell, but this looks like something a child would draw during school. This adds to the unique look of the film of course, but it also, I believe, helps kids connect to the images much better than they otherwise would have been able to.
Like I mentioned before, this is a silent film. There were a few lines of dialog in Portuguese, but those lines remained unsubtitled and I found it didn’t really matter. I was too swept up in the beauty of everything to care. It sort of reminded me of those sketches on “Sesame Street” that played in between the main sections featuring the Muppet characters. I remember being drawn to these segments more so than others because the simplicity of the animation was relatable to me. It seemed like these segments were from another world altogether. They made me want to explore more than any of the live action parts could have, and it spoke to me in a way that…well, to be honest, in a way that makes the real world as an adult seem all the more mundane and sad sometimes. All of this comes together to form a great theatrical experience that manages to punch you in the gut when the journey comes full circle.
“Boy and the World” is not a movie with frantic chase scenes and fart jokes. This is a not a movie that is here to pander. This isn’t even so much of a movie as it is an experience. One that is instantly relatable and fantastical at the same time. That there is no dialog should not be considered a strike against it. I don’t understand how we as humans like to talk about how smart our kids are and then scoff at the idea of taking them to see something that assumes that very thing. I don’t expect this to be a big hit. In fact, I fully anticipate it will come and go, be swept under the rug, only to be seen when people like me take it to friends houses to show to their kids while the parents ask “why didn’t I hear of this” after it is over. That makes “Boy and the World” an instant treasure waiting to be discovered. Fortunately for you, I have just provided the map to start looking for it.