Away is a tour de force of animation. A 74 minute joy of what is possible when one has the determination to get to their goal. This not only rings true for our lead character and his yellow friend. But also Latvian creator Gints Zilbalodis.
A boy is marooned on a strange land awakening hanging from his parachute. He soon embarks on a journey through this weird and wonderful world while seemingly being chased by a large dark being. With the help with a yellow bird that just wants to fly, the boy tries to make it back to civilisation.
Away is a wordless journey that broaches on a number of tones. The desert is fear and desperation, the vast emptiness wraps around our nameless character. He is confused and lost and most importantly scared. The introduction to the giant dark being that slowly follows him enhances this thought. He has fear of being left to die, to not getting home. He needs to not only escape this mass of death, but he needs to get home.
Soon hope and enlightenment reaches him when he reaches greener fresher pastures. He gains confidence to try and halt the beings unrelenting journey to him, he has tough decisions to make and when he reaches the forest dream well he is comforted. He can relax and rest, allow for what has happened to him to settle and for him to recover around these mysterious cats.
The open world nature of Away is what helps it stand out from other animations. At times it feels as if we are watching cut scenes from a game as we see the true expanse of this world. The free flowing camera rarely settles and as much as it focuses on character faces. It also flies off and fives us gorgeous wide landscape shots as our lead rides a motorbike through forests, along mountainous regions and over an ice lake. The camera is carefree and refreshing as it brings back semblance of cinema of past. When loose staging of scenes feel uninhibited it allows for the mind to wander to what the reasoning and thought process is.
There is no explanation of the plot, it is open for interpretation. We know nothing of this both of the giant dark mass following him. We can let our minds do that work and Away actively wants you to do so. Like its animation and cinematography, it is open for the audience. Each character, be it the boy, the small yellow bird even the giant, they are vessels for the audience to fill. How you fill it brings your own verdict of Away and that has to be such a strength to it.
The free nature allows for the minimalist vector style animation. There is no great detail throughout the film, facial features are not textured, but they don’t need to be. Not all animation needs to be finely detailed pieces of work. Wolfwalkers is a prime example of that. Away shows what can be done in this style and it is wonderfully eye catching and authentic. There will be countless articles and pieces about how Away was made by Zilbalodis, but instead it is better to just celebrate the film itself. He did everything in what has to be the shortest end credits ever.
Away is a beautiful and stunning piece of cinema that shows the glory of the medium when used creatively. For a one man show, this is a marvel. This is imagination and creativity at its very best. A lean film that allows the audience to experience freedom and allows us to take from it whatever we bring in. This is a stunning must see.
AWAY is available to pre-order now from Apple TV and iTunes. It can be purchased from Sky Store, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Rakuten and Sony from January 18th, as well as Curzon Home Cinema from 25th January.
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