THE RED TURTLE is the latest movie from Studio Ghibli, and if there’s one thing film critics are more tired of than that Inception trumpet blare, it’s explaining what Studio Ghibli is every time they release a movie. So look it up if you need to.
Okay! Now that you have visions of Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away in your head, I can tell you The Red Turtle is nothing like them. It’s a simple, wordless fable, drawn in a style that mixes character design straight from Tintin creator Hergé and landscapes reminiscent of the 19th-century woodcut artist Hokusai.
The main character—a sort of Robinson Crusoe-meets-Sisyphus type—washes up on the shore of a deserted island in the opening scene, and struggles to survive and escape thereafter. Each time he manages to construct a big enough raft from the local flora, though, it’s smashed to pieces by an unseen force before he can get too far out to sea.
That force turns out to be the titular turtle, which, in turn, is revealed to be much more than a mere meddling reptile. To give more away would spoil the story’s magic, but The Red Turtle eventually becomes a decades-spanning saga with poignant things to say about life, love, family, and death.
And, yes, it’s wordless. There’s no dialogue in the film, which eliminates issues of subtitles or dubbing and makes The Red Turtle a nearly perfect movie for kids (and adults) of almost any age. If you’re too young to appreciate it, you probably shouldn’t be in a movie theater, and if you’re too old to appreciate it, you probably need medical attention.