Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, WestEnd FIlms!
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For some reason, I have seen film snobs act as though there can only be one kind of story. If you have already told this story, then you can’t have a story set in the same place or time. I guess these snobs forgot that every story ever made is built upon or around a familiar story beat. In terms of animation, this seems to happen a lot. For example, for two years straight, we had three different bigfoot/yeti animated films. A lot of this is timing and coincidence, and what helped about those three films was the fact that each of them had a different setting and story. Not everyone has the same story, and you shouldn’t be gatekeeping what stories get told, because it may sound familiar to another film that already exists. If we thought like this, we wouldn’t have had Babe when Disney already put out Gordy. I say this because today’s film will probably be interesting to people who have seen Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul. Today’s review is of the Annecy In Competition film, Lamya’s Poem.
Directed by Alexander Kronemer and produced by PIP Animation Services and the production company Lamya’s Poem, this film was previously revealed to be in last year’s Work in Progress section of the Annecy International Film Festival. It then came back with a vengeance for this year’s Annecy In Competition Section. Does this film have a chance in the competition section against Lion Dance Boy, Poupelle of Chimney Town, Josee, the Tiger, and the Fish, The Deer King, My Sunny Maad, The Crossing, Hayop Ka!, Jiang Ziya, Snotty Boy, The Ape Star, and Flee? Well, let’s open up that poetry book and find out.
The story revolves around a young girl named Lamya, voiced by Millie Davis. She lives in Aleppo with her mother, and the two of them live in fear of getting caught in the civil war happening in their country. One day, Lamya gets a special book from her teacher by a known poet named Rumi. The story then splits off into telling the origin of Rumi, voiced by Mena Massoud, who, along with his father, try to survive and avoid the grasp of an evil army that has wrecked their town. The film combines the stories of both Rumi and Lamya and has a load of spiritual and symbolic elements. Can Rumi find inner peace? Can Lamya and her mother avoid becoming victims caught in the crossfire of the civil war?
What’s inspiring about this film is its tone. It may be animated, and while I wouldn’t say it’s as adult as The Breadwinner and The Swallows of Kabul, it still tells a story about survival, connection, and finding peace among the different people in this world. It’s a film that is aimed more at older kids, teenagers, and adults. I respect that so much because I still remember a time when studios would try to take a Disney approach to talk about stories and settings that are a touch dark for normal viewers, but then fails because the tone doesn’t work. Even when Disney tried this, they failed. This film doesn’t go as far as The Swallows of Kabul, but it doesn’t shy away from the horrors and troubles Lamya and her people go through. I am also a sucker for stories that intertwine the main characters and parallels the real events the leads are going through. It’s also a fairly quiet film that lets the characters breathe and let the actions from the story up to that point unfold. I wish more animated features were able to take a moment to let things settle down.
The animation for this film is interesting. it reminds me of a mixture of how it is executed in hit shows like Archer, but with the art direction and visual style of a children’s book. That’s not a bad thing since it has a distinct visual style that makes it stand out from the other films. It does mix some CGI elements in, but for what it’s worth, the 2D and CGI are mixed well. The voice work is also pretty good! I enjoyed the performances of three of the actors Mena Massoud, Millie Davis, and Faran Tahir. I thought they put in some fairly compelling performances. It was also just nice to see Mena Massoud again since I thought he was the best part about that 2019 Aladdin remake. The music by composer Christopher Willis is probably one of the best aspects of the visual and audio presentation. It’s big in scale and brought an emotional note to the overarching story and the conflict that is intertwined within the stories told in this movie.
If I had to complain about something, it’s that I think some of the sequences in the film would have been better if the animation was a touch more dynamic. While I don’t make the comparison to Archer as a bad thing, it has some of the same problems as Archer due to how stiff the characters can be. Some of the more intense and dramatic moments would have looked better if there were more dynamic poses. Maybe they couldn’t due to the time and limitation of the talent and budget they had, but it pulled me out of the moment at times. Some performances of the side characters felt wonky and not as good as the main performances. I was also a touch confused about when the stories decided to intertwine and I think it came down to pacing and when they would pop up.
Even if you may like some films like the ones mentioned above more, I’m glad films like Lamya’s Poem exists. I think it’s important to tell stories that aren’t the typical animated fare. Animation is such a fantastic medium to tell stories, and this film proves it. It’s why I’m in love with film festivals like Annecy, because we get to see stories, good or bad, told through animation. Now then, let’s move back to something more familiar with Pixar’s newest feature LUCA.
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Rating: Go See It!