OIAF Review: 'The Boy and the World'

The Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo)
(Brazil, 85 min.)
Dir. Alê Abreu
Enter the world of Cuca, a small boy growing up in a simple family in the idyllic Brazilian countryside. Cuca’s playful, carefree existence is thrown for a loop when his father quits the rural homestead for the city so that he may provide for his family. Cuca thus embarks on a journey to find his father. The Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo), which had its world premiere this week at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, is a notable animated feature offering from Brazil. The warm playful colours of The Boy and the World will bring out the kid in everyone as audiences find themselves enthralled with Cuca’s charming adventure.

As Cuca traverses Brazil, he sees his country in a new hue and explores his nation beyond the cozy shelter of his country home. The Boy and the World makes beautiful use of composition and colour as Cuca sees the world anew. His peaceful country home is rendered mostly as a blank white canvas, an innocent world uncorrupted by modernity and technology that seems like an endless and limitless playground. As Cuca explores Brazil further, the canvas of The Boy and the World becomes busier and brighter and the soundtrack becomes fuller and grander, expanding from a mere tune on the flute to a complete celebration of the sounds of Carnival. The music by Ruben Feffer a Gustavo Kurlat is a highlight.

As the music swells, so too does animation expand into a dazzling palette whose vibrant colours jump off the screen. This new world is marked by industrialization and technology: the screen becomes busier and the sounds become more hectic as Cuca’s journey takes him away from the land he knows. The contrast between the two worlds of the peaceful countryside and the chaotic metropolis is striking. The Boy in the World is an imaginatively rendered picture of modernity as seen through the eyes of a child.

It’s a child’s story, so The Boy and the World is endlessly playful and endearing as Cuca makes a game out of his quest to find his father. Each segment unfolds like a game with new challenges and obstacles that allow Cuca’s innocence to remain as the world around becomes more corrupted as his journey takes him into the city. Take one joyous, yet suspenseful sequence, for example, in which a fellow traveller gives Cuca a kaleidoscope to amuse himself with during the trip. As Cuca shifts the particles and mirrors of the toy, The Boy and the World explodes into a kaleidoscope of colours that keep the child in blissful ignorance of the busy world around him. Cuca’s fascination with the toy distracts him from the technology and industry popping up around him as he approaches the city. He remains endlessly fascinated with the kaleidoscope as he walks through construction sites, floating on girders and falling through the sky onto new buildings and places.

The Boy and the World is a fun adventure within the diverse and changing Brazil, but the film could easily take place anywhere. The film contains nary a line of dialogue, so there’s little to identify the setting aside from malleable symbols and the celebrations in the city streets as the film ends. The opening blankness of the film could ideally allow viewers to identify Cuca’s peaceful homestead as their own. In turn, The Boy and the World puts viewers in Cuca’s shoes and allows them to join him on this rollicking, spirited adventure.

Rating: ★★★½ (out of ★★★★★)

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