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Review: “Boy and the World” – A Beauty from Brazil

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Boy and the World

Boy and the WorldBoy and the World is one of Brazil’s first animated features, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature earlier this year. It showcases the world through the eyes and drawings of a child. We start out in the rainforest jungle, seen through the boy’s eyes at first, which is depicted with simplistic forms, shapes, and an array of crayon colors resembling any child’s drawing. Everything looks somewhat random with lines going any which way, but there is a beauty to the randomness.

The camera pans to show us this is the world of a little boy, who is named Cuca in the press release but is never mentioned out loud since there is no dialogue in the movie. He, too, is just a simple drawn stick figure with a circle for a head and lines for his eyes and appendages. He lives in a tiny house near the jungle in the countryside with his mom and dad, where he spends his days wandering through the jungle or trying to capture ethereal musical notes from when his dad plays his flute. One day, his dad mysteriously has to leave his wife and Cuca on a hissing black machine snake train. We later realize Cuca’s dad left to find work to support his family, but Cuca doesn’t know this. All he knows is that his dad is gone, and he becomes sad and upset. Unable to deal with his missing dad, Cuca sneaks out of his house one night to find him.

In his journey to find his dad, Cuca’s surroundings begin to change as he goes from countryside to large farms, factories, and eventually the big city. Things start to look less like crayon drawings and more geometrical with straight sharp edges and angles. Colors start to fade from rainbow to yellows and browns to black. Along the way, Cuca meets several interesting characters that help him on his journey. He first meets a farm worker and his dog who pick cotton with several other workers doing the exact same thing over a vast symmetrically patterned field. Stowing away with the cotton, Cuca then meets a textile worker weaving the cotton into fabric in a very orderly, grim factory. Cuca follows the fabric to the big city where he meets a street performer who brings the only bit of rustic color and music to a menacing big dark sharp edged city with futuristic machines. Does Cuca find his missing dad? I can’t say for spoilers sake, but there is quite a twist in the end.

Boy and the WorldEven though the film gets darker and darker as Cuca’s journey progresses, there are some bright highlights. One of them is a performing troupe of musicians who resemble a mini Mardi Gras Carnival parade. The music is pure Brazilian with hints of salsa, hip hop, bossa nova, funk, and whatever else you can think of when you think of Brazil. The country is never named in the movie, but the music is definitely Brazilian. That scene is full of life, color, and, of course, music, which is quite the contrast to the black notes Cuca later hears in the city from soulless prefabricated instruments.

There is also one glaring low point in the movie where things actually “get real” with the introduction of live-action clips and photographs of the worst news scenes and destruction one could ever see. Supposedly, it shows the somber reality of things, but it’s a big distraction from the rest of the movie and should have been left out altogether.

Overall, the movie is quite a little treat and shows one doesn’t need fancy CGI 3D animated features to tell a good story. I’m very happy the rest of the world knows this, and I look forward to more beauties like this from Brazil.