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Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse Film Review

An animated still of a boy standing in the middle of a dark forest in the film ANGELO DANS LA FORÊT MYSTÉRIEUSE

With a clever use of animation, Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse takes us on a funny and heartwarming adventure.

Directors: Alexis Ducord & Vincent Paronnaud
Genre: Animation
Run Time: 81′
Cannes Premiere: May 22, 2024
Release Date: TBA

Directed by Alexis Ducord and Vincent Paronnaud, Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse begins with a funny voiceover that welcomes us to its world, or rather, to its protagonist, who tells us all about how his film is going to start with a list of credits so long that nobody will actually read through them. It is a fascinating and entertaining way to begin the movie, as it immediately sets the tone for the rest of it.

The animated movie premiered at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will also be featured in the programme of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June 2024.

At the beginning of Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse, we seethe titular character, a ten-year-old who dreams of becoming an explorer and zoologist in his imagination and dreams. When the family finds out that the grandmother is sick, they leave to visit her. While making a stop along the way, and almost getting lost, the family accidentally leaves Angelo (Dario Hardoin-Spurio) behind. This does not discourage Angelo, who is on a mission to see his grandmother as soon as possible. But to do so, he has to make his way through a mysterious forest that seems daunting and hides an adventure for him to discover and explore.

The animation style is the most impressive element of Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse. It changes throughout the movie as it jumps back and forth between Angelo’s imagination, which is told in more traditional animation, and his adventures in real life in a three-dimensional modern style. This visually tells the difference between the different narratives showcased in the movie. The way the story jumps from the real world to Angelo’s imagination is also interesting as we can immediately see the parallels between Angelo’s family and the characters in his stories.

Angelo’s adventure once he enters the titular woodland is also a fascinating watch. Much of his story is filled with story-tale tropes and references which become fun to spot when watching the narrative unfold. Some of the characters of a fairytale land that Angelo meets may already be somewhat familiar to the audience from previous stories we know and love. The film also follows the classical structure of the Bildungsroman story, the type of novel that deals with a character’s formative years. Much like in the Bildungsroman, Angelo’s physical journey through the forest mirrors his personal growth as the film goes on.

An animated photo of a boy sitting on a giant hand made of grass  in the film ANGELO DANS LA FORÊT MYSTÉRIEUSE
Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse (JESUISBIENCONTENT / Cannes Film Festival)

Although he spends most of his time in a fairytale land living his adventures, the most touching element of the film is Angelo’s relationship with his family and, more specifically his grandmother. At the beginning of Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse, Angelo says that “a world without Gran isn’t possible.” When the boy faces the possibility of losing his grandmother, the film reminds us of the importance of imagination to face hardship, especially as children. I liked the way this was integrated into the plot, but I wish the narrative would have touched more on the uniquely heartbreaking experience of losing a family member as a child.

The film also touches on other topics. The conversation between Angelo’s father and the Artificial Intelligence GPS, which eventually has an identity crisis over his existence as an AI system, is particularly interesting, although the adults in the audience may appreciate it more than the children. However, it feels like Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse never really explores any of its themes thoroughly. Once Angelo embarks on his adventure in the woodland, the story becomes increasingly and unnecessarily complicated with too many subplots and side characters, making us forget the inciting incident that started the film.

Overall, Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse is a perfect film for kids that is both visually impressive and moving in its final moments. A part of me wishes that the end of the film had remained a little more realistic, which would have definitely made it more touching and heartbreaking. The narrative finishes with a happy ending: this is often the case for children’s film and appropriate for this target audience, but I wish the movie would have opted for a stronger and more memorable message in its final scene.

Angelo dans la Forêt Mystérieuse (Into the Wonderwoods) premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2024.

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