Away is an animation film directed by 25 year old Latvian Gints Zilbalodis. The film, which is available to pre-order now from Apple TV and iTunes, follows a boy who is trying to get home on a mysterious island while being chased by a dark spirit. 

The first thing to note about this animation is that the target audience is not kids. Of course, the film is rated as Universal, but it can be extremely deep and silent for children to sit through. Not a single word is spoken throughout the film, because our protagonist is all alone on a mysterious land and the only friend he can find is a little bird. 

There are plenty of mysteries in the film; like how the boy arrived at the land; what is the dark spirit that is patiently following him; why can’t he remember anything? We’re not actually given answers to the many questions we have and this is what I mean by the depth of the film. The audience is left to use their own imagination and find their own answers. 

The film is being compared to a lot of Studio Ghibli films and I have to strongly disagree.

Making films like these is very risky in this time and age, because the audience demands answers, but Away is a great example on how to take the risk and do it properly. It easily gets away (please note the pun) with it because we only know as much as the protagonist and we’re both on this journey trying to make sense of everything, especially trying to figure out the dark spirit that is following the boy. 

Zilbalodis not only directed the film but he wrote, produced and even composed the music. Like our protagonist he started his journey all alone and it took him 3 long years to complete it. And like the plot, Zilbalodis’ animation is very minimal. We are still gifted with the beautiful nature the boy has to journey though. From the elegant flock of birds to the sky-high lily pads; it’s incredible that Zilbalodis has created it all by himself. 


The film is being compared to a lot of Studio Ghibli films and I have to strongly disagree. Ghibli films have way too many things going on at once and have extreme scenarios and emotions. Away is the opposite. It’s calm and collected even when our protagonist is trying to escape from the dark spirit. His looks are calm, his emotions are calm, which has given the film a very oniric style. If you’ve ever tried to run in your dream and have always ended up running in slow motion, this is what the film feels like most of the time. 

This of course doesn’t mean the film doesn’t get exciting and unlike our dreams this gentleness doesn’t annoy us instead, Away creates a desperate but serene journey. The film has participated in numerous film festivals and is the recipient of many awards.

 

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A post shared by Gints Zilbalodis (@gzilbalodis)

The film is a reminder of the relationships we take for granted

Along with our protagonist we get to explore this unfamiliar land with only a motorbike. We ride through places like the Forbidden Oasis and the Mirror Lake and with each new place the boy encounters different animals which he seems to form a little connection with. These animals seem to be helping him, providing him with water as he also helps them. No matter how big or small the connection he has, these animals and nature seem to be guiding him and looking after him. Of course this is a delight for the boy and the audience alike since they are the only connections the boy has. The film reminds us of the connections we take for granted whether it’s with our families or friends and especially with nature. 

Away is a great animation film, one that is very suitable for the lonely year we just had. Almost like a metaphor for the people who have had to isolate themselves and the ones who’ve lost everyone around them. Hopefully we’ll have the same ending as our protagonist has very soon.

‘Away’ will be available for digital download on January 18, 2021.

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Busra Mutlu

By Busra Mutlu

Writer