A young boy in a dream world confronts characters who impart philosophical and existential ideas upon him forcing him to come to grips with his own purpose and existence. Upon first glancing of this animated movie, I was really quick to change the channel and never intended to give it a chance, but as I sit here writing this review, I'm glad I stuck around to watch what was about to unfold before me. The movie plays out like any other typical movie, a nameless young man walks out from a bus station calling his friend from a phone looking for a ride and in comes a man dressed as a sea captain driving a boat/car. That's where the journey begins as the man talks about philosophy which the boy merely disregards as yammering. What he doesn't know is where he's going which the man is talking about in front of him. He gets off at a random stop and is seemingly hit by a car. I was intrigued by where this movie was going and became truly engulfed within the context and meaning of the film itself.
Richard Linklater, director of one my favorite rock flicks "Dazed and Confused" really takes a step up from a simple nostalgic dramedy to this philosophical conundrum that is never truly given an answer. The whole movie itself and the people within the scenes never give the audience an answer but simply give us more and more questions to ponder forcing us to draw our own conclusions. I was completely breath taken by the incredibly thought provoking philosophy and monologues the characters arose to as this young boy now is immersed in, what seems like a dream state, though is never truly sure or given a definite answer. Throughout the film, he asks people for answers, never knowing that they themselves are within the dream. The people within the movie's dreary dream sequences beg so many philosophical and idealistic questions, my favorite being, are we really alive searching for a dream, or are we simply dreaming searching for life?
So, in an attempt to connect ourselves further and give ourselves the identity that we are this baby, we create a story connecting it to us combining our presences yet we never realize we're not the same person we were ten or eleven years ago. So, the question is: Do we ever really have an identity? The movie plays out like a dream itself, senselessly drifting from one scene to another, one vista to another, never giving any purpose to itself. The animation is also a riddle which the director asks very subtly, Is the animation a different form of expressing the movie, or is it supposed to symbolize and further emphasize the dream-like state this boy is in? I enjoy watching movies that dare to challenge the mind and debate many topics, especially religion and god which this movie does in fact do. It asks is reincarnation really a young soul being re-used in different lives or is it simply a telepathic collection of memories taken biologically from our ancestors and relatives before us?
Also, one man brings the topic up that man, throughout millions of years of evolution, we're no further evolved as humans socially. Why have we, as man, learned nothing from history and always go back to zero? Is it fear or laziness? That's a question that's managed to percolate in my mind and still, to this point, three hours after watching this piece of art continues to linger. The character of the young boy himself is not a solid defining character, but merely a dreamer and observer, never truly taking anything from his experiences but only asking more and more questions never coming up with a defining answer... like us. When a director has this effect on me, the movie is excellent. Look for walk on roles from Ethan Hawke, Nicky Katt, Adam Goldberg, Julie Delpy, and director Steve Soderbergh.
This is a somewhat flawed but brilliant film that provokes thought, idea, and conversations within the audience through it's surrealistic dreamy animation and incredibly profound conversations. Linklater is a truly underrated director. Check this out to exercise your brain, but remember it's only an exercise.