The Red Turtle: EW review
The Red Turtle
Critters of all shapes and sizes, real and imagined, have always found safe harbor in the realm of Studio Ghibli. The Japanese animation house (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away) is an international co-producer of this luminescent, life-affirming fable about a shipwrecked man. And appropriately, it’s a zootopia. Set entirely on a deserted island, the film features birds, bugs, seals, fish, spiders, frogs, centipedes, bats, sand crabs, a cluster of baby turtles, plus the big red one of the title. None of these creatures speaks — in fact, there’s not a single line of dialogue in the entire movie — yet each feels so alive as to be physically real. The sand crab might just be sitting in the palm of your hand, staring back at you with the perfect Ghibli mix of warmth and curiosity in its teensy eyes.
That’s the magic of The Red Turtle. The film is gracefully directed by Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit (Oscar-winning short Father and Daughter), who favors long, luscious shots of the island, rich with more shades of blue and green than you’ll find in a paint store. Nighttime scenes are gorgeously monochrome. Beautiful motifs, such as an underwater cave that represents a rite of passage, are returned to. A woman and child eventually join the man (how, you’ll just have to see), and with supple gestures and tons of little tells, the story charts nothing less than the circle of life. And it invites us — as in, anyone who’s ever felt stranded — to consider our little spot in the world. Lavish with stunning imagery, the experience will ripple into your dreams. A