Boy & the World

Posted by Joel Copling on February 18, 2016

Immediately, the most striking element is the animation. "Boy & the World" is largely conveyed through what seem to be pencil-like drawings--all blunt, hard lines as edges for characters who have the most basic of human designs (specifically, the kind a non-prodigal kindergartener might be able to come up with, which I mean in the kindest of senses). The surroundings sometimes cease to exist when the young boy who is our protagonist of sorts lets his music-driven imagination wander, but when they do exist, there is a minimalism to them, as well. The backdrops are solid and immovable, the landscapes cautiously careless in their rendering, and then there's the fact that music seems to exist within the characters' space (The boy even floats away on a figuratively literal bubble created by a particularly beautiful note).

It's remarkably lovely to look at and loving in the care and attention taken by Ale Abreu to craft such a memorable aesthetic experience. It opens the writer/director up to handling the metaphors present within the story he weaves by way of visual representations. When the young boy encounters the big city for the first time, it is a confusing morass, both of literal (cars weaving in and out of streets under construction and lights that, to this young person, have no sense of pattern) and artistic structure (The whole thing is a tangled web of geometric lines and random squiggles). When faced with the consumerism of a metropolis, the people on billboards take a deformed shape and nature that is more complex and garish than anything else onscreen.

In fact, it's all a bit too much for a film that might have flourished from the simplicity on which it is premised for about forty of its bloated eighty minutes. There is a bit here about breaking down the boy's sense of innocence about his simple world through the blunt harshness of the one into which he ventures after the inciting incident (which I'll get to in a minute), but it is separate from his central emotional quest. The chaos of a journey through the streets of the city, only to latch onto another lonely person who takes him along is a thematic strain on what should be a tale of discovery of a different sort. There isn't time among the adventures here for the boy to discover anything about himself.

The result is a movie that strains to allow discovery of an entirely external and contrived sort. It's a pity, too, because Abreu has a salient reason for the boy's departure from his mother: His father leaves by train for a reason left almost entirely up to the viewer's imagination (The film's few lines of dialogue are in a native tongue with no subtitles to offer what undoubtedly is a bit of exposition). This might have sparked a 15- or twenty-minute short film sweet enough to work, and indeed, it does work wonderfully for that period of time here, as well as when the film flashes forward in the final ten to reach a note of deserved and inevitable melancholy. But "Boy & the World" suffers under the weight of metaphors it neither earned nor needed.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Marcos Aurelios Campos, Vinicius Garcia, and Lu Horta.

Directed and written by Ale Abreu.

Rated PG (thematic material/images).

80 minutes.

Released in select cities on February 5, 2016.