The Red Turtle (5 stars)

The Red Turtle

Life-affirming, Oscar-nominated animation from director Michaël Dudok de Wit

An Academy Award nominee in 2017's Best Animated Feature category, and co-produced by the renowned Studio Ghibli stable, The Red Turtle has a pedigree that might just make audiences curious enough to watch a wordless meditation on man's relationship with nature. The Dutch writer, director and animator Michaël Dudok de Wit – creator of the Oscar-winning short Father and Daughter – has conjured up a breathtaking debut feature, simply drawn, rich in texture, and warm of heart.

A sailor washes up on the shore of a remote island. The man finds enough food to survive, but yearns to return to civilisation, so he attempts to fashion a raft from gathered timber. His efforts are thwarted by a mysterious red turtle, which casually destroys his makeshift craft. Finding the turtle washed up on a beach, the man attacks it, then feels a deep remorse that encourages him to nurse it back to health.

The turtle itself isn't seen until a third of the way through and the film's gentle pace and sensuous colours should have engaged the sympathies of the viewer with the man's lonely plight by then. The shift into allegory is deftly handled, depicting the various stages of the man's life, with relationships formed, crises averted, and time passing as fleetingly as the white spume of the sea on the sand.

The Red Turtle is a stunning, life-affirming animation that's worthy of the esteemed Ghibli brand. By seeking to capture the simplicity of a parable or fable, Dudok de Wit manages to tell his story in a manner accessible to all. Like the jolly crabs which constantly scuttle across the beach, his film says so much without ever uttering a single word.

Limited release from Fri 26 May.

The Red Turtle

  • 5 stars
  • 2016
  • France / Belgium / Japan
  • 1h 20min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Michaël Dudok de Wit
  • Cast: Emmanuel Garijo, Barbara Baretta, Tom Hudson (voices)
  • UK release: 26 May 2017

A man washes up on a desert island; when he tries to build a raft, it’s destroyed by a mysterious red turtle. Breathtaking début feature by Dutch writer, director and animator, a stunning, life-affirming tale of man’s relationship with nature, entirely worthy of the Ghibli name (the studio co-produced it).