The Animated ‘Boy and the World’ Is a Marvel of Visual Storytelling

Tension between the city and the country has been a fertile topic for as long as there've been cities, and Alê Abreu's phantasmagoric The Boy and the World explores the eternal conflict in a familiar yet wholly original way.

The boy in question is Cuca, who lives a comparatively simple life in the country. When his father leaves for the big city, Cuca follows after him, exploding his own world.

The city here is the classical definition of a metropolis, including visions of dehumanized workers inside a dark satanic mill that evoke the anonymous workmen feeding Fritz Lang's infernal machines. It doesn't have all that much new to say about the impact of industry and globalization on the human spirit (verdict: not good); instead, The Boy and the World's animation is its real (ahem) draw, a sort of handmade collage of all sorts of different styles — oil pastels, colored pencils, fountain pens, and found objects such as books and magazines — all while maintaining the feeling that it's being filtered through a child's sensibilities.

It's masterful in expressing ideas and emotions without speech; what dialogue there is conveys as much meaning as the adults' in Peanuts. Words would just get in the way.

The Boy and the World
Directed by Alê Abreu
Opens December 11, IFC Center

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