THE RED TURTLE — Review by Susan Granger

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This 80-minute animated fable is memorable for its dazzling aesthetic and imaginative storytelling, which explains its Academy Award nomination. Beginning with a roiling sea, the story revolves around a man who is lost in the waves and washes up on a tropical island, seemingly inhabited only by birds and curious, scuttling sand crabs. As he explores the lush vegetation, thick forests and rock walls beyond the beach, he slips and falls into a crevasse. Instead of drowning in the water below, he finds a way out. And that’s only the first lesson he learns in coping with loneliness and the forces of nature around him. Read on…

As time slips by, he builds a raft out of bamboo from the forest and sets sail, only to have it destroyed by some beast lurking under the water. That happens again and again when he rebuilds and attempts to get back to civilization. The creature will not let him leave.

As it turns out, his nemesis is a gigantic red turtle. Which, in his fantasy, mysteriously shapeshifts into a beautiful red-haired woman, discreetly covered by a large shell. When he decides to abandon the raft, she discards her shell.

They mate and have a child. But danger lurks over the decades, as they struggle to find food and survive tsunamis.

Collaborating with Isao Takahata of Japan’s renowned Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “Princess Monoke”) and screenwriter Pascale Ferran, Dutch animator/director Michael Dudock de Wit went to the Seychelles, where he took thousands of photographs, preparing to recreate how time stands still in such an environment.

While the sounds of nature abound, along with Laurent Perez Del Mar’s ethereal music, there’s no dialogue. Except for some CGI in the turtle, the spare, hand-drawn imagery conveys the emotions inherent in the castaway’s adapting to and making peace with his situation.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Red Turtle” paddles in with a sumptuous, survivalist 7. Because of its leisurely, dreamlike pace, I suspect its appeal will be more to adults than children.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.