I’m always encouraging distributors to make films available as early as they can for review purposes; the reason is more than just convenience. I like to a have a choice of what to view next , and the days of driving 500 miles to watch a cartoon in Coventry are long gone for me. So Munro Films did a good job in giving me time to pick my moment to watch Away, a Latvian animation that, if you’re in just the right mood, is a really great little find, a spiritual, thoughtful meditation of self-development and overcoming our fears, the perfect tonic for pandemic times.
This is a wordless film of universal appeal; it should work for artsy kids, but also for grown ups, very much in the vibe of The Red Turtle. We start with a boy, released from a parachute hanging from a tree. He’s haunted by the immense, spectral figure, it seems to represent fear; whatever he does, he can’t shake it off. The boy enters a wonderful world of plants, creatures, and even a motorbike, which he used to explore; Away sometimes feels like a video-game, and offers some of the same logical-based universe building. But challenges awake, and fear remains a factor as the boy strives to find a way to be the best version of himself.
Writer/director Gints Zilbalodis does an amazing job here, crafting a story which works as a simple narrative, but leans into our desire to create meaning; the little yellow bird that the boy befriends is cute, but what does it symbolise? Hope? Confidence? Faith? It’s up to the viewer to decide, and that deliberate lack of a pinned-down meaning is part of what makes Away a pleasure to watch. The animation is often stunning to look at; this would also be a great late-night view for stoners and philosophers alike.
Perhaps not 2020’s most heralded film, Away is worth commending, if only because the director, Ray Harryhausen style, is the sole author of the project, and it bears the unmistakable stamp of one-man’s vision, even down to the score. Some may find the lack of dialogue or narrative plot-points frustrating, but if you’ll go with the flow, Away is a spectacular animation that delights the eyes as it challenges the mind.
Away opens in UK and Irish cinemas from August 28. The film is a U Cert, with a running time of 75 minutes. Audiences can sign up for updates and watch the trailer at www.awayfilm.co.uk