Posted: 09 Feb 2018 02:30 AM PST
Ladies and gentlemen, we have an early challenger for my film of the year.
Disney and Pixar knock this one out of the park creating a beautiful, gorgeous world to tell a charming and affecting story of family, music and remembrance.
Set in Mexico and based around the Day of the Dead festivities this is probably Pixar’s best movie since Inside Out and one which takes a place with the very best the studio has produced.
The Rivera family have effectively banned music after an ancestor left to become a singer, never returning and meaning his wife had to work, creating a successful shoe making business. However, young boy Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is loves music and has adopted local musical legend Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) as his hero.
He wants to take part in a talent show but is forbidden by his grandmother, who insists he spends Day of the Dead with his family. As they set out the pictures of dead ancestors and relatives, the photo of his great-great-grandmother is dropped. The broken frame reveals that the photo has been folded. Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, the runaway musician, who’s face has been torn from the picture is revealed to be holding Ernesto’s famous guitar.
Miguel takes this as a sign, and argues that he his honouring his family’s traditions, but his grandmother smashes his guitar. Angry, Miguel storms out, announcing he doesn’t want to be part of the family. Desperate to find a guitar to compete he breaks into De La Cruz’s crypt and steals the car.
It is at this point the movie really kicks in, with the already charming and likeable film embracing the supernatural and introducing the ghostly ancestors who have come across to the land of the living to visit their family. The art here is great with the ghostly figures styled after sugar skulls and their skeletal figures retaining unique characteristics for each person.
Miguel can see them because having been cursed for stealing from the dead. He must break the curse by sunrise, by obtaining the blessing of a family member, however, his great-great-grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach) only offers a blessing with the condition that he never plays music. The rest of the family refuse to go against the matriarch and so Miguel decides to find De La Cruz.
Miguel travels through the city of the dead, a vibrant, strange world with his only guide Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) a scruffy, trickster who tries to trick his way across to the living. But nobody has put up a photo of him so he can not cross. He claims to know Ernesto and agrees to help Miguel on the condition that he takes his photo so he can cross once more and see his daughter one last time before she forgets him.
When the dead are forgotten they vanish forever, and Hector’s daughter is the only one who remembers him.
Can Miguel break the curse? Will his hero Ernesto help him? And will Hector get to see his daughter again?
This film is simply gloruous. The artwork is beautiful and the colourful, sprawling city of the dead and it’s residents are extremely well done.
The characters are fantastic too, with Miguel a charming, likeable hero. He has humour and courage, and it’s through his eyes we experience the wonderful world he enters.
Similarly, the swaggering De La Cruz and scruffy Hector are both engaging and interesting characters and their story unfolds nicely. One of the revelations is easy to see coming, but there are a few twists in the tale.
As Miguel tries to break the curse he comes to understand the importancr of family and how much they mean to him. It also serves as a powerful reminder of respecting our past and appreciating how it shapes us.
The film has raw emotional power, not just in the melancholic nature of the city of the dead but in the handling of Miguel’s great-grandmother, Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia), who is losing her memory and in confused moments still waiting for her father to return.
Sod it, I have to give a spoiler here, but to be fair, most grown up viewers will guess it during the movie.
Hector is Coco’s father, and he did know Ernesto, in fact he wrote many of his songs. Ernesto’s bombastic signature tune “Remember Me” is actually based on a quieter, more low key song Hector wrote and sang to his daughter.
The scene where Miguel returns home and sings this to her, reviving the long dormant memory is one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen in a long time, and reduced WoM and me to tears.
The moving scene, which captures all of the film’s themes is wonderful and caps the movie beautifully.
Loaded with charm, gorgeous to look at and profoundly moving, this one will be hard to beat in 2018.
Verdict: An utter delight. Some plot developments are easy to see coming, but it doesn’t rob the film of it’s ability to move you. A fun, emotional and beautiful film. 9.5.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
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