Now and again, amidst the mounds of garbage that studios churn out for children, films like The Book of Life appear. A film about bravery and love, The Book of Life is rich in aesthetic, witty in dialogue and enchanting in story. The film has layers which it glides back and forth between throughout its hour and a half of running time. This is a film of oppositions. It celebrates the afterlife as much as it celebrates the gift of living. With its cultural Mexican roots, it brings the folk tales of the ‘day of the dead’ and this particular celebration to life for younger audiences. It is an educational movie which celebrates diversity and cultural traditions. Above all it is sincere and charming with enough humour and beauty to entertain even soppy twenty-year-olds like me. When a school bus of raucous American school kids turn up at a museum with the lowest of hopes, they are soon enchanted by a tour-guide and her story telling. Her tale takes over the main narrative, with the museum creating a frame in which the magic takes place. When two rulers of two spiritual realms place a wager on the outcome of a childhood love triangle, trickery and fantasy ensues. Manolo and Joaquin are fighting for the heart of Maria; a contest that spans over several decades. When one contender finds himself tricked into entering the afterlife he must fight to get back to his love and to simultaneously save his village from a herd of nasty bandits. The Book of Life subtly explores outlooks on death and the loved ones who never truly leave us.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, and brimming with all the imagination and authenticity we expect from such an artist, The Book of Life doesn’t shy away from being different and unusual. It has great wit and timing, keeping it consistently funny and surprising. I haven’t seen a U rated movie as original as this since A Monster in Paris which graced our UK screens 3 years ago. Both films also share a striking use of music and composition. The Book of Life, amidst its bizarre and brilliant combination of setting, comedy and story, also manages to convert Radiohead hits to the Mexican acoustic guitar. None of this should work but everything does. The characters are animated with such striking detail and delicacy that there is always something new to captivate and impress the wondering eyes of animation fans. The Book of Life celebrates difference, individuality and courage. It will come and go quickly and quietly but will bring a smile to anyone lucky enough to catch it and give it a chance.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.