This is one of the very few animated productions where Studio Ghibli’s fantastic storytelling is given a hint of European flavor. While “The Red Turtle” is branded a Studio Ghibli production it garners much of the same elements from Ghibli’s library including a wide open world, a menacing series of creatures and the overtones of the symbioses of nature and humanity. It’s best to think of “The Red Turtle” as a fairy tale, as the movie relies on a lot of inexplicability to tell its thin narrative. The narrative being thin is by no means a criticism as “The Red Turtle” is a lot about raw events, and simplicity at its finest.
Brandishing a lot of the same aspects that makes European animation so celebrated, “The Red Turtle” manages to be a tale of survival, and an allegory for the tumultuous journey of life and family. Thanks to an unknown disaster, a nameless man washes ashore a deserted island one day. Left with no actual resources, he spends most of the time on this unknown island roaming around, looking for food, and discovering its unusual nuances. After he begins looking for a way off of it, he finds himself repeatedly held by a confrontational giant red turtle that keeps destroying every makeshift boat he creates. One day after the turtle washes ashore; he kills it, and is shocked to see that from out of the turtle’s shell has grown a beautiful woman with red hair.
Before long, the man and woman begin building a life on the island, and birth a son who also begins learning the elements of the island, maturing and building his own path in their small world. Director Michaël Dudok de Wit’s production is remarkable and often times beautiful to look at. The film has a small narrative and absolutely no dialogue, save for grunts and screams by its protagonists, but manages to make every situation absolutely awe inspiring and compelling. One of the best scenes of the film find the man accidentally slipping in to a crevice in a cliff, and left with no other option, is forced to squeeze in to a tight hole in hope of making it out.
Many other instances like that one both big and small derive a lot of shockingly exciting and awe inspiring moments, allowing for a journey that’s inexplicable but powerful in its emotion and awe inspiring glances at life. Another of the finer elements include two sand crabs that allow for surprisingly good comic relief, as they follow our protagonists everywhere and witness many of their major events. “The Red Turtle” is one of the more abstract and complex works of art from Studio Ghibli, but it’s a stellar experience with absolutely top notch animation and sound design from beginning to end.