Away (2020)


A boy and a little bird are on a journey across a strange island trying to get back home.

Away’ is an impressive animated film from Latvia, marking the debit of writer-director Gints Zilbalodis, and on the evidence of this striking debut he has a big future ahead of him. The film features no dialogue and has a singular focus on one boy’s (and a little bird’s!) quest to make his way across a mysterious island, inhabited by various animals and one evil entity, but no humans as far as we can gather. The animation style is less advanced than what we’ve come to expect from big budget Hollywood efforts from the likes of Pixar, Disney or Dreamworks, but that only adds to the charm and to some extent it felt like watching a computer game play out – in this case that’s not meant as a criticism.

The film begins with the aforementioned young boy parachuting down and landing in a tree amidst this strange landscape. He sees a large spirit heading his way and it’s immediately clear that he is in danger, so he makes his escape by cutting his parachute and sprints off into a small area of green forest and blue lakes where he finds temporary refuge. Here, he finds a motorcycle, a backpack with a map, and a small bird who he befriends, and he builds up the courage to flee past the spirit and start the journey back to what we assume to be civilization. For the remainder of the short runtime (‘Away’ is only 75 minutes, and it’s perfect for a film of this nature) our protagonist is on the move, trying to keep one step ahead of the giant spirit which continues to stalk and track him down, consuming everything it encounters in a chilling fashion. I thought this was a really strong debut feature, a film that was emotionally resonant but gripping and tense throughout.

As an animated film people will naturally take their children to see it and I do wonder if the film may be a bit too opaque or even slightly scary for children, but for this adult, I thought ‘Away‘ was a film full of invention and I was really taken by it, and Zilbalodis is certainly a name I’ll be looking out for to see whatever he does next.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Gints Zilbalodis

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