There are times where you judge a film by a trailer, an article or word of mouth and it is because of that judgement that you could possibly miss out on something greater.
This is a lesson that I constantly have to remind myself each time I watch a movie and as a result it often leads me to disliking a movie upon first watch but then softening my opinion towards it as time moves forward. This is because there are those films that cause you to relive past memories or contemplate what the future holds for your life and that can be difficult to meet head on, but the more and more you think about it the more you are able to attempt to answer those questions.
Boy and the World does exactly that but under the guise of a delightfully made animated feature. It is the story of Cuca, a boy who despite living in poverty had a happy home life until his father boards a train one day never to be seen again. Cuca makes it his mission to search for him which leads to wonderful adventures and interesting people all across the world. It’s an intriguing perspective because you are seeing familiar themes of how we operate in today’s society all through the eyes of this little boy who’s goal is simply to reunite his family and continue making music with his father.
I believe what is most surprising about Boy and the World is that from the very beginning you think that you have this movie all figured out. The colors and animation is vibrant and beautiful but the approach to the characters is simplistic. The music is wonderful and drives Cuca’s journey and the overall film because there is little to no dialogue. From these pieces alone, you begin to get comfortable with the notion that this is simply a cartoon movie from Brasil with great colors and music. Nothing more. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
As I look back on my notes from watching this film, the aforementioned understanding of this movie rings true and it isn’t until the end of the movie that I received a huge momentum change and realize just how great of a message a Boy and the World conveys. Basically saying, I couldn’t have been more wrong about this movie.
As Cuca embarks on his journey to find his father, he encounters various representations of how true life is lived. From migrant farms, factories over-populated cities, shipping yards, packing plants, basically every facet of life you could imagine Cuca experiences all while meeting people that assist him through his journey. These scenes are wonderful because you can see that Cuca has been sheltered from these parts of life and once exposed it changes his outlook completely. However, the beauty and underlying theme throughout his story is music. Music is the one key to happiness for Cuca and his family and no matter where he finds himself he is always able to revert back to the emotions that music can provide. This is supported by an incredible soundtrack and extremely catchy theme song that is repeated throughout the film. It serves as Cuca’s guide to where he believes his father is.
It is clearly apparent why Boy and the World was nominated for Best Animated Feature. It is not only wonderfully assembled, but also evokes a sense of introspective searching in one’s self that can sometimes be painful yet necessary. Boy and the World shows Cuca seeing all of these people living their lives with little to no joy, having forgotten the music that helped bring happiness in the first place and it isn’t until the end of the journey that we realize that the people Cuca had been interacting with this entire time were in fact versions of himself at different points in his life. It is then we see him as an older man who is looking back on his life’s journey and is weighed down by all that surrounds him. He’s forgotten the song. He’s lost his joy or at least it is now a distant memory. This theme is easily identifiable because it speaks to a time in all of our lives where we are untouched by the cruelty of the world around us and are just simply singing our song and enjoying the music. Life, in that moment, is in its simplest and most beautiful form. It isn’t until we grow older and move away from that time that we begin to realize all of the negativity that can pull us down and if we are unable to reach back into those memories and recall the music, the joy, the happiness then we are doomed to walk this Earth constantly searching for something to fill that void.
There is a moment in the end of the film where the older Cuca is looking upon his old house that used to be filled with happiness and he begins to hear the familiar music play. It is then he realizes that across a field there is a group of children playing this song and in that moment he realizes that despite how bad things can become there can always be a song of hope, that there are still ones out there untouched by all that he’s come to experience.
It’s strange to gather all of this from a little animated movie out of Brasil, but I kid you not one minute I am thinking that I can already sum up this movie from its first frame and the next I am deeply moved by the overarching themes about life and how we choose to live it that is being displayed. A Boy and the World was a wonderful film filled with excellent animation and even more powerful music. This movie demands viewers attention and is unrelenting in its message to those that choose to sit down and give it a chance. I’m glad I did. I believe I’m better for it.
The bad news is that this film just does not have the PR machine that a PIXAR film does and as a result will most likely not win an Oscar. However, it should be noted that this resonated more with me than Inside/Out, a movie that I did not particularly care for. I wish it would get more recognition, but maybe simply being nominated is all it really needs. If you have the opportunity to see Boy and the World I encourage you to do so. I only ask that you do not make assumptions from various material about this movie before viewing it. I promise it will surprise you.
Boy and the World: 3 GARYS