AWAY (dir. Gints Zilbalodis): Film review

Away is the first feature length animated film from Latvian director/animator Gints Zilbalodis. It is a dialogue-free animated movie telling the story of a boy whose plane crash lands on a strange island. He is chased by a terribly slow moving creature, who despite his size, cannot seem to catch up to anything that isn’t asleep already. Think horror-movie-villain slow, without the machete.

This entity plods over the island eliminating all life that it passes, only being barred from a paradise sanctuary. Here the boy finds refuge and a motorcycle. Torn between the fear of staying in one place, or finding a way off the island, the boy chooses freedom and seeks to outrun the gatekeeper monster in search of a home. Along the way, he is joined by a feathered partner who shares in his journey.

Zilbalodis has created a terrifying yet starkly beautiful world. He uses music to move the road trip story along and the vivid animation is breathtaking. Despite the beauty in the animation, the story sometimes drags and the life is hard device becomes redundant. Still, the lurking monster sustains the tension as the boy winds through silent forests and traverses over Mirror Lake where cloud and water become indistinguishable.

Is he running from the monster or from what haunts him? It seems the monster chasing the boy relates to the trauma of the crash and the ghosts of his fellow passengers. Perhaps that is what Zilbalodis is suggesting, that trauma defines our adventures and our fears dictate our choices. It is a thought-provoking work that provides little clarity but shows a beautiful, bleak world that perhaps mirrors reality a little too closely.

Opens in Los Angeles November 29, 2019. Available for streaming the same day on Vimeo and Amazon Prime.

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