I’ve had multiple opportunities to see this film for months, however something has always come up and hindered this, however last night I finally managed to go! Making The Red Turtle the 3rd Studio Ghibli film that I’ve been able to see at the cinema, something I’m pretty proud of.
Generally, my blogging schedule includes a standard weekly post and a review of a small studio animated film at the weekend, however as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I’ve been back home for 2 weeks and haven’t had the time for a mid-week post this week nor have I had time to watch a new small studio film and since I had the tickets booked or The Red Turtle months ago, I’m going to cheat and use that as my weekly review (I know Studio Ghibli are pretty big in the movie community but since this film was only shown at a few select independent cinemas – I’m going to say it counts)
So without further ado…
The Red Turtle is the love child of Dutch animator and director; Michaël Dudok de Wit, Japanese animation powerhouse; Studio Ghibli (For those of you unaware; Studio Ghibli are the animation studio responsible for such successes as: Spirited Away (2003), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1998) as well as many, many more.) as well as Wild Bunch Productions and Why Not Productions.
I’m going to summarise the plot from what I believe happened as this film is actually dialogue free unless you count the occasional scream or “hey!” so it’s possible I may have missed vague parts of the film. The film begins with (what I believe is) a shipwreck victim who washes up on a desert island, he begins to investigate the island and tries to find a way off, he eventually figures out that he can build a raft using the bamboo and vines on the island, he manages this and sets off into the sea. The shipwreck victim believes that he is now on his way back to civilisation until something under water bumps the raft one too many times and causes the entire raft to break up in the middle of the ocean. The survivor then swims back to the island; exhausted and frustrated, he stays here until he gathers enough energy to try and build another raft, he does this and the same thing happens, he tries one more time but this time he notices that the thing causing these accidents is actually a giant, red turtle. He returns back to the island once again and later notices the turtle crawling onto the shore, the man who is now furious at all his failed attempts of getting off of the island, charges towards the turtle and beats it with a stick out of anger, he then leaves the turtle rolled on it’s back – which eventually kills the turtle. Days later, the man feels very guilty for what he’s done and tries to revive the turtle but to no avail. To the man’s surprise (and mine) when he returns to the turtle the next day, it appears that it has turned into a woman! There is literally a woman lying inside of the shell who appears to be unconscious. The man then protects the new turtle-lady by bringing her water and shading her from the hot sun. The woman wakes up one day and the two begin to bond over (I guess) being the only two people on this island, the man then stops attempting to escape and the two start a family and somehow survive together on this island for the rest of their lives. There’s a little more to this film but I won’t say all of it in case you decide to go see it.
I mean, this is going to be a bit of a biased review as I am such a fan of Studio Ghibli, however I’ll try to keep this as balanced as I can. As you’d expect this film is beautiful with incredible hand drawn characters and environments mixed with CG water and turtles (I believe??) it’s so seamless though, it was hard to tell. This film was pretty simplistic and just sweet, in typical Ghibli fashion (even though Michaël Dudok de Wit wrote this film and not the studio) there wasn’t too much of a plot, sure the survivor trying to leave the island and ultimately deciding to stay was a driven plot but after that we just kind of watch the family live and thrive on the island, which was nice in a way! it was relaxed, however it was one of those films where you weren’t sure when it was going to end, I think the run time is only 1hr 20mins but there were multiple moments in the film where you thought “ahh yes, that’s where it’ll end” but it carried on, and on and on which isn’t a problem as I did enjoy the film but it’s something that comes from these kind of vague films.
I’d have to say the only problem I can think of right now which was an issue in the film is the vague story line, I understand that this film was probably open to interpretation but it didn’t quite make sense to me; this didn’t make me enjoy it any less though, just made me ask a few questions. For instance; why/how did the turtle turn human? Did he hallucinate the woman? Did the man forget that he’s in a relationship with a turtle? Does he not mind? Stuff like that and since there was no dialogue the scenes flowed from one to another so things happened and you weren’t exactly sure why? I remember seeing the Shaun The Sheep Movie that also had no dialogue and I never lost track of the plot in that film? Perhaps it’s a cultural issue or perhaps I wasn’t focusing quite enough. Regardless, it wasn’t really that much of a problem, I enjoyed it anyway.
Honestly, I don’t think this film is for everyone, it was enchanting and visually so pretty however there wasn’t much of a story like I mentioned, I can’t see young children sitting through this quietly. It’s definitely worth watching if you are already a fan of other similar films or other Ghibli films. There were some really adorable moments with the animals of the island and the baby that comes from the man and his turtle wife and it’s definitely a film I thought was worth the wait.