Away (2020)

Director: Gints Zilbalodis

Running Time: 75 Minutes

Certification: U

At the end of this film, only one credit pops up, reading "A film by Gints Zilbalodis". For audiences who are used to 10-minutes' worth of credits, it's a shock that it's so short, and only paying tribute to one-person. That's for good reason though, because Zilbalodis served as director, writer, producer, animator, and film score creator on this project, which took three and a half years to finish. It's a mighty achievement in its own right, but even more so when the final product has been so deftly crafted.

The feature opens on a boy awaking, as he dangles from a tree by his parachute. Before he can get his bearings, a dark and ominous spirit appears. Finding a motorcycle, the boy travels across the island to escape the spirit, and hopefully make his way home. It's a story told without dialogue, something it doesn't need, as anything of importance is already made clear for viewers. On one level, the film brings to mind a video game, as we settle into our protagonist evading the enemy, while problem-solving, and discovering items vital to his survival.

From the opening moments, it's clear this film's star is the gorgeous animation. The stunning imagery is a visual treat for all, working so well alongside the astounding score, as they add to the dreamlike quality of this vast location. Admittedly, some of the character movements can feel rough around the edges, such as a scene involving diving into water. This doesn't detract from the extraordinary sights, with a highlight involving birds flying across a mirror field. There's so much life breathed into this island, and the many features shown through exploration.

Aiding that are the inhabiting animals, be it cats waiting around a geyser for a drink, or a tortoise trying to make its way to their family. There's so much personality in these creatures, and the best example is a little bird who joins the boy on his journey. Covered in yellow fur, this beady eyed creature struggles to fly, but will stand up for the boy where possible. There's so much to love about this adorable little scene-stealer, who will most-certainly steal your heart.

In pursuit is the dark spirit, a slow-moving presence who never gives up, resembling the living dead in George A. Romero's iconic trilogy. To use a quote from The Terminator, it can't be reasoned with, it can't bargained with, and it does not feel pity or remorse. It absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. It's an imposing figure with an unsettling design, although the slight nature of the story does impact how the conflict wraps up. In spite of that, it doesn't take away from this marvellous tale, exceptionally standing apart from other animated fare.

Away is available to pre-order now from Apple TV and iTunes. It can be purchased from Sky Store, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Rakuten, Sony, and Curzon Home Cinema from January 18th.