Boy and the World Review: A Colorful Statement

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Boy and the World knows exactly what it wants to say from the very first frame. For most of its very brief runtime, it says it very well. Narratively, this film feels like a more abstract version of Boyhood or Tree of Life (yes, even more abstract than Terrance Malick is capable). This is, after all, merely a crudely drawn coming of age story. One also where music takes a physical shape and plays as vital a role as the natural colors of the trees and flowers. There’s also no real dialogue. In moments where the film needs people to speak to forward the story, it’s unintelligible (backwards Portuguese, apparently) and visual aids do the crux of the work.

But with all its purposeful simplicity, the film still manages to be absolutely beautiful. The manner in which the titular boy discovers the world he inhabits is stunning, moving from white pastures to a bustling metropolis in a journey carried by color and melody. Not to mention the wide-eyed sense of discovery that makes up both the film’s tone and the boy’s personality.

Then comes the sobering reality of the film’s message. Like a bucket of cold water, Boy and the World loses all its subtlety to become an environmental PSA. I’m all for political subtext in storytelling, so long as it’s not done at the cost of the story. This film feels entirely interrupted when it happens and then never quite reclaims its magic.

But even so, while this film isn’t for everyone, it does find a way to make crude, minimalist animation wondrous. That’s an impressive feat all on its own. So despite its soapbox-y moments, Boy and the World is still a stirring success. Just be prepared for its innocence to turn manipulative. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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