Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Dir. Tim Burton)
Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children follows Jacob (Asa Butterfield) who locates the home for children after following clues given to him by his grandfather (Terence Stamp). Ruled over by the titular Miss Peregrine (a very charismatic Eva Green) the home is a safe place for children who are different from the average child, in rather weird and wonderful ways. All is not good in the world of the peculiar however, and the home’s residents find their safety jeopardised by some rather frightening creatures.
Directed by Tim Burton, the film is very much two completely different beasts. The first half an almost snooze-worthy pile of exposition and explanation about the world and how it all works. There’s also far too much time spent on the relationship between Jacob and his father (Chris O’Dowd), which is rather dull and of almost no consequence to the developments further on. Once you hit the second hour however, the film becomes a creepy and eccentric adventure in supernaturalism and strangeness. A fight sequence between a variety of unnatural beings, set to pumping electronic music, is one of the more entertaining action sequences I’ve seen in some time.
While Burton certainly nails the story’s more bizarre elements, the plodding first hour really lets the film down. Asa Butterfield is also a disappointment – he just doesn’t have the star quality to pull off the role. It’s hard to see who the audience for this film is – it’s far too scary for younger kids, but not scary enough for teens.
The Red Turtle (Dir. Michael Dudok de Wit)
Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle is co-production between Wild Bunch and Japan’s famous Studio Ghibli. It is the story of a man who becomes a stranded on an island which is devoid of human life, but filled with various plant and animal life. After several attempts at escape, the man accepts his fate as a castaway, and we observe his life at various stages.
It is the simplicity of The Red Turtle that makes it so powerful. The film is dialogue-less, which serves to remove all distractions from what plays out on-screen. The utterly stunning visuals and beautiful sound design are completely transformative, and you feel as if you are there, watching on in silence. I found the restraint and straightforwardness of the depiction of the life cycle to be incredibly profound, and I was brought to tears several times. I adore this film and I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s like balm to the soul in these noisy times.
Life, Animated (Dir. Roger Ross Williams)
Owen Suskind was a bubbly young boy until at age three, when he withdrew into his own mind and stopped communicating with others. After many specialist trips Owen was diagnosed as autistic, and his parents are devastated that there was no “quick fix” for their son. While Owen may have stopped talking, his love for all things Disney had never waned, and it was one of the shared activities that the whole family still enjoyed. It turned out that Owen was doing more than just watching the films, he was studying them, processing them, and soon he was using them as a tool to help him both communicate, and understand the world around him.
Owen’s story is told through a tapestry of interviews with friends and family, home movie clips, interviews and interactions with Owen himself, as he and his family are preparing for him to move out of home and into assisted living for the first time. The film also continues some beautiful original animation – the medium he feels at ease with – to bring parts of his story to life. While the film does gloss over some of Owen’s tougher times, it does a reasonably good job at showing the many challenges he and his family face. It’s an inspiring story, and as a film lover, I found it difficult to not feel overwhelmed at the power these films have for Owen and those around him. I may have cried, just once or twice.
By Sam McCosh