Away (2019) (animated film review).

I settled down to watch ‘Away’, an animated feature film with anticipation. It’s not Disney and it’s not Manga, so it’s going to be different. It certainly is different. Before we get to commenting on the film let’s get the credits out of the way as it won’t take long. The film was written, directed, edited and produced by Gints Zilbalodis. I said it wouldn’t take long.

The film opens with a young lad, aged about 12, dangling from a parachute that has been caught on a dead tree. He’s simply hanging there asleep but does wake up and manages to get a look around before a huge creature which I’d say reminded me of a golem walks up. After a quick inspection, he shoves the boy complete with parachute into his mouth.

A quick comment on the artistic style of the animation here. While the animation is obviously produced with a PC package there is no texture to anything. The boy’s arms are flesh coloured with no shadowing, tonal changes or texture. The same is true of his shirt, pants and hair. In fact, it’s the same for everything on this island. It can make things difficult to pick out.

Back to the film and I’m going to continue to refer to the rather large creature as a golem as I can’t think of a better term. As the boy is swallowed by the golem, the soundtrack changes to something vary ominous. The camera angle changes to show the boy complete with parachute descending a tunnel and a heartbeat, which I’m surmising is the golems is introduced to the music. It makes things even more ominous. The boy is still dangling from the straps of the parachute inside this tunnel, but he manages to undo the buckle and somehow slowly fall to the ground below. He may now be outside, but we still have the ominous music and the heartbeat.

A quick look back to the golem shows it straightening up and taking a step towards the boy. While we don’t know very much about this boy, we know he’s not daft as he runs for all he’s worth with the golem in ponderous pursuit. Not too far away, he can see a hoop in the ground. It’s a very large hoop and the path goes underneath it so he runs for it but the golem continues its ponderous pursuit. There’s another round opening set in a cliff which he runs for. Strangely the golem stops at this entrance for no reason I could deduce.

This is the beginning of ‘Chapter 1: Forbidden Oasis’. The film itself is divided up into 5 parts with the short opening sequence kicking things off and then ‘Chapters 1-4’. I’ve really no idea why but this will become a common theme. In the ‘Forbidden Oasis’, the boy finds a nice oasis and a motorbike complete with a satchel containing provisions, a telescope and a map of the island. The map shows a route going from one end of the long narrow island to the other, leading through a series of hoops. He also makes friends with a little yellow bird.

The golem remains resolutely on guard at the entrance to the oasis but does not come in. Perhaps it’s forbidden to enter? We shall never know. As the boy is contemplating making a break for it on the motorbike, a flock of white birds fly out of the oasis over the top of the golem. The yellow bird tries to follow but is intercepted by the golem. The boy mounts a rescue mission and recovers the yellow bird although it is rather ill and traumatised.

After providing some first aid to the bird, the duo makes a break for it on the motorbike which leads us onto ‘Chapter 2: Mirror Lake’. There’s an odd sequence here where what looks to be a llama encounters the following golem. Apart from confirming my suspicion that the golem is not benevolent, I can’t see any reason for this little cameo.

Another odd thing is that the boy never speaks. Not a single word. Not even when he’s petting the yellow bird which happily chirps. Even odder is the elephant’s gait. There are three elephants walking across the Mirror Lake and each of them seems to have something wrong with their right rear leg. Of course, it could just be an artefact of the animation, but it looks very odd. On the plus side, this chapter provides some visually stunning screenshots.

It’s a shame it has to end but ‘Chapter 3: Dream Well’ muscles in. This chapter is even more confusing than the two leading up to it. There are more different types of animals but none of them behave as you would expect a normal wild animal to behave. Perhaps we should skip over ‘Chapter 3’ and move directly to ‘Chapter 4: Cloud Harbour’ but that would be a mistake. ‘Chapter 4’ is just silly before it just suddenly stops. I probably should be thankful really.

After watching ‘Away’ and thinking about it, there are two things that annoyed me. One: there’s no reason provided for anything that happens. It just is. You will not be any wiser at the end of the movie than you were at the beginning. Two: errors in the animation. There’s lots of these and too many to detail. Normally, I’d skip over these as it’s the story that really matters but you will be paying so much attention trying to understand the story that they become obvious and annoying.

Sorry, but I didn’t enjoy ‘Away’. I got tired of asking why?

Andy Whitaker

November 2019

(pub: Subliminal Films. 75 minute animated colour film)

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2 thoughts on “Away (2019) (animated film review).

  • It’s about the journey and not about the answers to the questions. Maybe it is all a dream, this could be one of the reasons the Away animation looks like that. You should check out Gints Zilbalodis’ other animated films.

  • Film that indeed makes one wonder: Why? Is this a repeated allegory? My guess is the Forbidden Forest is the best place to be (drawings on rocks show the big guy frozen at the entrance), but the seated skeleton was the owner of the moped and the backpack. He must’ve travelled the island in order to draw the map, and discovered that the village wasn’t where he wanted to be, thus returning to the forest. But like the turtle, one will always seek to find one’s tribe/family.


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