Review: COCO (2017)

Directed by TOY STORY 3’s Lee Unkrich, COCO is a stunning vision of beauty and life. This 2017 Pixar picture is the stuff of cinematic wonder, with a screenplay by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich. It weaves a timely and timeless story that explores the Mexican Día de Muertos and notions of memory, family and life. It is an expressive and sometimes dark movie, with confident humour and warm voice performances.

The story focuses on 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), an aspiring musician living with his shoemaking family in Santa Cecilia. His grandmother (Renée Victor) is upholding a familial ban on music and prohibits Miguel from playing his guitar. The boy is undaunted and wants to be like the famed Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a captivating idol revered the world over notwithstanding his untimely death. Miguel’s journey to understand his family and his love of music reveals the truth about his hero and takes him all the way to the Land of the Dead itself.

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COCO thrives with gorgeous music and colour, celebrating the worlds of the living and dead. The early images of Miguel’s home are profuse with flavour, with Pixar’s animation team paying careful attention to the slightest of details. There is always food and movement. With the Day of the Dead approaching, there is also festivity and tradition. Miguel’s family is, like so many fabled clans, reverent of traditions and yet in need of revelation.

At the heart of COCO is what could be termed a misinterpretation of events. The grudge against song is unspoken in a broken heart, in a mislaid life. Gael García Bernal gracefully draws Héctor as the hinge of this fallacy and his affection for Miguel leaps for joy. The title character, a woman (Ana Ofelia Murguía) slipping away, is characteristic of how the living maintain a grasp on the lost and how the lost are left with a place in the here and now so long as they are remembered. And in the face of doubt, sorrow and despair, COCO’s message is beautifully important.

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