Quick Synopsis: A coming of age story with sea monsters set in an Italian seaside town.
Pixar do great stuff. I’ve often used “it seems very Pixar” as a compliment for great animated movies, and that’s for a good reason. Their films are usually among the best animated films of the year (with the exception of Cars and Good Dinosaur), and they’re usually full of emotion and heart. This is no exception. It has everything you want from a Pixar movie, but also a few more things. This has an air of something non-Pixar about it. That’s a good thing though considering the “non-Pixar” feeling it has is almost Miyazaki-like. I do not say that lightly, and it’s a great compliment. The almost dream-like state to the whole thing is magical and keeps you interested throughout.
Almost everything about this film just works beautifully. The casting is a great mix of known Western names, and Italian performers which mean the whole thing doesn’t feel like cultural appropriation, but also has enough names that it will appeal to people who watch films because “well I know that guy”. They’re divided up well too, with the humans being voiced by Italian performers (with one exception), and the “monsters” being the non-Italian ones. This makes sense as they just live in the Italian waters, they’re not specifically Italian, so it’s an acceptable break from reality.
The look? It looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s quite difficult to do water-based animation as everything is constantly moving and you have to account for that. It also has a great sun-like nature to it. You almost feel warm watching it, it has the air of a summer vacation.
The plot? It’s, not gonna lie, kind of basic. There’s not many surprises, but the way they tell it is wonderful. The idea of having the heaviness of “sea monsters that can walk on land and want to be accepted” and the lightness of “three new friends need to win a race so they can buy a vespa” works wonderfully and helps drive so many great moments. The way they overlap and influence each other is something that only works in this film, take away one of the aspects and the whole film falls apart.
It’s really hard to not love the characters in this. They’re all so well written that you identify with almost all of them. There is slight gay-coding in the story, with the “sea monsters” being a metaphor for homosexuality (feared for no reason, having to hide their true nature to fit in with people etc). This was unintentional on the film-makers part, but was welcomed by the director Enrico Casarosa. Its one of those film theories that once you think about it, you can’t unsee it, it really works and improves what is already a good film. It adds an unintentional layer to the central dynamic of the three characters as it means it’s not just about friendship, it’s a romantic triangle featuring characters who are too young to fully understand their feelings so they act out. It also adds another layer to a scene where one of the characters is revealed as a sea monster, and fearing repercussions, their friend joins in in the shunning and expulsion of them from the city. It’s an emotionally devastating scene and you can just feel the kids heart break. So powerful and one of the best scenes of the year
So in summary I’d highly recommend this. It’s so damn beautiful and I love it.