Boy & the World (Gkids, PG)

There’s no chance you will mistake it for anyone else’s work.


One of the great things about animation is that anything is possible. If you can imagine it, someone can draw it, and practical matters such as the force of gravity or the relative size of people and other objects in the real world need only be honored if you choose to do so. Given that starting point, it’s amazing how few animators take full advantage of the freedom offered by their medium. When you see a film that offers a fresh new take and really does exploit the broad range of possibilities offered by animation, like the Brazilian film Boy & the World by the director Alê Abreu, it reminds you of what can be accomplished in this medium.

The film’s story is that of a boy, Cuco, who enjoys a simple life in the countryside, chasing chickens and cavorting through a pastel landscape of delights. This idyllic existence comes to end, however, when his father leaves for the city and Cuco decides to follow him there. Cuco’s journey is nothing short of epic, and eventually, he arrives at a Blade Runner-like city of frightening vehicles, intimidating staircases, flashing lights, confusing signs, disconcerting sounds, and strange people doing even stranger things.

As Cuco’s environment becomes more complex, so does the art in Boy & the World, all of which was hand-created by the director. Abreu begins with the premise of the blank page (which translates in film to a white screen) and adds elements to express not only the story but also Cuco’s state of mind. Abreu does not use standardized backgrounds but draws whatever is necessary within each frame, while leaving the rest blank. Boy & the World has an intriguing and effective soundtrack by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat, but no dialogue, except for some brief sections in an invented language (IMDB says it is “backwards Portuguese”), so the story is told almost entirely through the visuals. The result is one of the more personal animated films I have ever seen, and there’s no chance you will mistake it for anyone else’s work.

I’m not the only admirer of Boy & the World—it was also nominated for the 2016 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. | Sarah Boslaugh

Boy & the World will be screened at 7:30 pm on March 25 and 26, and at both 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on March 27, at the Winifred Moore Auditorium at Webster University (470 E. Lockwood Ave., St. Louis, MO, 63119). Tickets are $6 for the general public, $5 for seniors, Webster alumni, and students from other schools, $4 for Webster University staff and faculty, and are free for Webster University students with proper ID. Further information about tickets is available here, and the film series calendar is available here.

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