With its curated details and plot, Coco is a beautiful movie, full of empathy and humanity that make it stand out.
As one of the latest Pixar movies, Coco is also one of its most successful ones in recent years. With music taking centre stage in the film, the animated movie delivers a stunning product, elevated by its musical pieces and attention to detail in the animation. The film was overall well received, particularly in Mexico, where it soon became the highest-grossing film of 2017, surpassing The Avengers. It is safe to say, then, that with its rich storytelling, beautiful visuals, and three-dimensional characters, Coco really managed to captivate and fascinate worldwide audiences.
Coco follows the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old aspiring musician who lives in the Mexican town of Santa Cecilia. However, his family is vehemently against music. Many years before, in fact, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach) had banished music from the family forever after her husband abandoned her and their daughter Coco (Renée Victor) in order to pursue a music career. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel steals the guitar of his idol, the world-renowned musician Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) who was originally from Santa Cecilia too. Because of this, Miguel is accidentally sent to the Land of the Dead, where he embarks on a race against time to return to the world of the living or remain there forever.
As it often happens with Pixar movies, the details in the animation are visually impressive. While set in Mexico, the movie creates an entirely new world, almost parallel to our own, as Miguel enters the world of the dead. Just like Miguel discovers this new world, with all its different places and tradition, the audience is also introduced to this new dimension. Thanks to aesthetically pleasing animation, the Land of the Dead comes to life in Coco right before our eyes. Watching the movie, we get the feeling that each shot reveals something new from the Land of the Dead, while creating a fully-fledged world that is captivating to look at.
While Coco’s story may be predictable, especially for adults, the emotions that shine throughout the film make it a memorable product. Similarly, although this is not the first time a story focuses on the encounter between the living and the dead, Coco introduces an element of originality in the family element the plot is centred on. Undoubtedly, this is what makes the film relatable to everyone. Maybe not all audience members will be familiar with the traditions of the Day of the Dead, most of the viewers will relate to the strong family bond we see in the movie and the need to remember our late loved ones.
In a story like this, music evidently plays a key role. In this sense, Coco takes a different turn from other Disney and Pixar movies, where music is integrated in musical-style break-into-song performances. Unlike these previous movies, the musical moments in Coco are diegetically inserted into the plot: when the audience sees a performance, so does the audience within the film, as the songs are performed within the movie as well. The songs are extremely memorable and touching, particularly “Un poco loco,” and “Remember Me,” which won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 90th Academy Awards.
What is most interesting about Coco, however, is the representation of Mexican culture and heritage. In an age when the Day of the Dead is increasingly commercialized and appropriated by audiences in the Global North, it is refreshing to see a media product like Coco that highlights its Mexican heritage. The film highlights how this holiday is centred around family and remembering our loved ones that passed away. Although this is a key aspect of the Day of the Dead celebration, it is often forgotten in today’s appropriation of the Mexican tradition. By doing this, Coco also contributes to the representation of Mexican culture on screen, which, albeit more present nowadays, is still very much needed. Most importantly, this representation extends behind the screen as the involvement of Adrian Molina, the Mexican-American co-director and writer of the film, proves.
In Coco, life meets the world of the dead, and it does so with a unique level of emotionality. While this movie may be for kids, it certainly will touch the hearts of all the adults who may be watching it. The film also deals with such delicate topics very well, while also not shying away from treating it with the accuracy and attention it deserves. Something that remains unique about Coco is its exploration of heavier topics, despite being seemingly targeted at children. And in this sense, it is further proof that animation is not solely for kids but can cater to a wide variety of audiences.
Coco is now available to watch on digital and on demand.