Blu-ray: The Red Turtle

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Michael Dudok de Wit
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017 | PRICE: DVD $17.99, Blu-ray $18.91
BONUSES: two featurettes, AFI Fest Q&A with director
SPECS: PG | 80 min. | Animation fantasy | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The Red Turtle
is a striking collaboration between the French filmmaker/animator Michael Dudok de Wit (he helmed the 2000 Oscar-winning Best Animated Short Father and Daughter) and the Japanese animation  production house Studio Ghibli (the home of most of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s work).

A man is shipwrecked at sea and becomes stranded on a beautiful but desolate tropical island. After learning to adapt to life on the isolated island, the man builds rafts to attempt an escape, but is constantly thwarted by a giant red sea turtle who won’t allow him to row out past the beach break. In a subsequent fantastical development that is best left undescribed here (I’m not a fan of the term but, yeah, it would be a “spoiler”), the man comes across a beautiful young woman who has apparently also been stranded at sea. Together, the two create a family of sorts as the years pass by…

The power in The Red Turtle lies in its straight-forwardness. Employing a clean, simple style of animation (it looks almost hand-drawn) and a nearly wordless audio design that enhances all the sounds that a storm-swept tropical island has to offer, this gentle film is startlingly cinematic in its purity. Most of the visuals are framed in medium and long shots, eschewing close-ups for a wider perspective, almost as if we, the viewers, are the natural world observing the life of our shipwrecked protagonist. At the same time, this visual approach puts us on an equal field with the film’s players as a series of both realistic and semi-mystical developments occur. The film’s ending is both a happy and sad one, an inevitability that befalls all of us, whether our lives are touched by fantasy or not. But life, as we all know, goes on.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray disc include a pair of making-of featurettes, both presented in French with English subtitles, and a AFI Fest Q&A with the filmmaker that’s presented in English.

Buy or Rent The Red Turtle

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.