Like most Studio Ghibli films before it, I didn’t know about The Red Turtle in its first year. Unlike most Studio Ghibli films, it’s not a pure Japanese creation as they worked with a French company to bring this story to life on the silver screen. I think I heard of The Red Turtle first because of its nomination for Best Animated Feature for this years Oscars where it lost to Zootopia. What really hit me as strange is that the movie has virtually no dialogue (there are sounds of course) but the movie did really well with critics. So while it didn’t really sound like my cup of tea, I wasn’t really going to miss the movie either.
The Red Turtle’s story begins with a young nameless man being shipwrecked during an violent ocean storm one night. He manages to find an island where there’s enough fresh water and food to survive on. But there is literally nobody else who lives on this island. While it’s more dangerous to sail back, the man figures it’d be for the best. Nobody from the outside world will ever find him, and it might be his only chance to get back to civilization. But the battle won’t be easy, as he’ll have to figure out his own way to get off the island.
Luckily for the man, he has the knowledge and skill to build simple rafts. They might not be top technology, but it floats. But once the man gets out into the pretty blue waters, someone wrecks his boat. He manages to reach the beach before he drowns, and rests again before trying to escape once more. Again he builds another impressive raft, but it is destroyed again by a giant red turtle. Frustrated and angry, the man is almost hopeless about getting back to the mainland. However when he sees The Red Turtle crawling on the beach, that’s when everything changes in ways you would not expect.
Overall The Red Turtle is rather weak and may be my least favorite film by Studio Ghibli. I can see why this impressed the Oscar people because the animation is beautiful and the whole film is rather artsy. But I like deep plots with my movies and the simple story (with no dialogue) moves about as slow as a turtle. It also gets rather strange, and the ending was not what I had expected and I wasn’t too impressed with the conclusion either. But I will say it’s neat on a level where anyone in the world can watch this movie and understand it without any knowledge of any other language or help of a translation.