Review of The Red Turtle (2016)

Moving picture, 80 minutes

Seen in 2017.

A castaway’s life, confined to a small tropical island where no ships are ever seen.

Animated feature. Beautifully animated. The dream sequences are lovely. The great wave crashing into the forest moved me in the crowd at GIFF 2017, where I sat among too-small children bored to distraction.

I was disappointed by the fabulism: Realistically drawn crabs with funny-animal behaviour, no insight into the psychology or society of the turtles, the red turtle’s strange desire to wear clothing, and especially the kid apparently growing up without hearing or saying a word (on film), which would have terrible consequences for the development of a human child. Is the man functionally mute despite being able to say “hey!”, does he not try to teach his language, does he try and give up, or does he try and succeed, with all resulting dialogue omitted? Is the turtle invisible in the first two attacks, and if so, why?

Judging by what I read, de Wit wanted a simple allegory, not a story about survival or escape. I suppose the allegory is about reconciliation with inscrutable random chance, a fate that is less cruel than it appears, in which case the woman’s visibility and presence is representative of this reconciliation. The son’s emigration is inconsistent with this interpretation, and such a theme could have been developed by more credible, internally consistent methods.

I wonder why de Wit used so little material to make a feature film with this level of detail, when he could have made another brilliant short. On this note I appreciate the near-possibility of interpreting this as an interquel to “Father and Daughter” (2000).

moving picture Ghibli animation Japanese production fiction