Exquisitely hand-painted frame by frame, this French-language arthouse animation is bleak yet hopeful, about two young siblings who are forced to leave their home in order to flee from war and persecution in Eastern Europe.
Dir. Florence Miailhe
2021 | France | Animation/Drama | 84 mins | 1.85:1 | French
NC16 (passed clean) for some nudity and violence
Cast: Florence Miailhe, Maxime Gemin, Arthur Perreira
Plot: The dramatic journey of two siblings, Kyona and her brother Adriel, who are running away, because they are being pursued by an unspecified Eastern European country.
Awards: Won Jury Distinction (Annecy)
International Sales: Indie Sales
Subject Matter: Moderate – Refugees; War & Conflict; Hope & Despair
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Screener – Singapore Film Society Showcase
I love my dose of Japanese anime, but every once in a while, a European animation would set me off onto another path in another world… of wonderful colours, lush brushstrokes and aesthetical delights.
In The Crossing, we get an award-winning French animation from Annecy that should enthral audiences looking for something less mainstream, yet possessing enough thematic relevancy and urgency to render it a worthwhile journey.
Two young siblings are forced to leave their home, fleeing from the war and ethnic persecution in an undefined location in Eastern Europe. They are separated from their parents but promise to aim to cross the border to freedom.
Although released in 2021, one would most certainly draw parallels with the millions of Ukrainians who had to flee to safety from the Russian invasion. This reading makes The Crossing much more powerful as director Florence Miailhe has left a lot of geo-markers to the imagination.
“I kept losing people along the way. My heart had become a sieve.”
The visual style of her animation reminds me somewhat of Loving Vincent (2017), where expressionism triumphs over realism—this gives The Crossing a unique, artful look, one that was painstakingly created frame by frame by filming oil paintings on glass.
Even though running at less than 90 minutes, Miailhe’s film takes its time to acquaint us with the two protagonists, who face one obstacle after another in their perilous journey.
The sister, Kyona, keeps a sketchbook of drawings of people she meets during her time on the road. As it becomes a repository for memories of the past, the blank pages suggest that new, hopefully brighter, memories will be captured.
In that regard, the title ‘The Crossing’ may be best interpreted from a psycho-temporal perspective, where a painful, traumatic past must eventually give way to a new dawn. Time, not space, is the longest ‘crossing’ any human being must reckon with.
I’m glad that this kind of animation can still hold up today because it’s so beautiful. Thank you for your review and for including the trailer.
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I brought this to my little country for a screening for my Singapore Film Society members – I think the folks love it!
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