Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molna
Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
“This is Pixar at its best – somehow both visually stunning and straightforward. There’s something deceptively dazzling about Pixar at its best. It’s a return too to the brand’s very best version of the storytelling about feelings (rather than just storying with feelings)…” I started my review of Inside Out with those lines, it could be the start of a review about Coco too. If anything Coco – again – raises the bar. The beautiful colours and music take you to this magical place, put you there, we’re in a Mexican village and it’s The Day Of The Dead. Miguel is a young child who just wants to be a musician, but his shoemaking family have other ideas, they feel that there’s been a curse on the family because Miguel’s great grandfather was a mariachi who never returned. His great grandmother, Coco, is the heart of the film.
That this manages to be a family film, so heart-warming, sumptuous, gorgeous, and yet most of the main characters are skeletons, spirits on the other side, is remarkable; one of those challenges Pixar seems to set itself: can we make a film about THIS? The answer – always, to date – is yes. Yes they can!
But as Miguel pursues his destiny, and walks through a story of the family history the feeling of being alive, of feeling alive, of spirit and heart and love is so palpable. Then you keep remembering this clever trick that we’re being made to feel of this, shown all of this, by a bunch of dead bodies, a pack of skeletons.
Maybe Coco is not for the youngest member in your family. Maybe it’s for the whole family altogether. Maybe you’ve arrived at it without children of your own – it is very much a film for everyone. And yet, it’s a specific story, a culturally sensitive story that shows a diversity not always present in the Pixar films.
I’ve watched Coco twice. I’ll be seeing it again. And again.
I really don’t want to spoil too much more of the plot – but it’s one of the finest films I’ve seen in a while. You watch it and as its unfolding you feel in awe of the profundity. You weep at the joy, at the total understanding of lineage and legacy. It is perhaps the best screen portrait of family and family bonds and the music of life, the melody in the collective soul.
My young son loved it. I loved it too. I’d have wanted to see it even if he didn’t – and there are some aspects of it he didn’t yet understand, which only has him eager to watch it more, to learn, to want to unpack and understand it. I feel much the same way. I held him tight as the film ended, when we first watched it. I felt the weight of our deep connection. And I sat stunned as the credits started to roll. There’s so much deep humanity, the grit of the soul, the strength of heart, in many of the Pixar films, but Coco is now the new leading example. A masterpiece of tight storytelling that is visually and sonically appealing too. Just the actual best.