Directors: Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun
Release: 8 October 2017 (London Film Festival), 2018 TBC
From: Manga Entertainment
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: PG
In a mystical realm, in between Earth and the afterlife, there exists a world full of magic and wonder. In it, beings are endowed with supernatural powers which helps them control the weather, and natural order of things, in the human world. When teenagers reach their coming-of-age day in this realm they are sent to the human world as red dolphins so that they may experience it for themselves and learn about the effect their powers have — 16-year-old Chun is one of those sent.
Her mother warns her of the danger of men, but once she arrives on Earth she encounters a human boy named Kun who loves the sea and all its creatures. While she is wary of him at first, she becomes drawn to him and, when a storm puts her life in danger, is amazed when he decides to help her even if, by doing so, he loses his own. Wracked by guilt over his death, Chun decides to travel to the afterlife and trade half her lifespan with the one-eyed soul keeper to take Kun and nurture his soul back to life. The selfless act sees a drastic change in her world, though, and soon she faces the wrath of her peers as they blame Kun, whose soul takes the form of a dolphin, for the apparent apocalypse and desperately try to kill him.
Loosely based on several Chinese folktales and classic stories, Big Fish & Begonia is an epic fantasy which charms viewers with its stunning animation and enchanting narrative. Full of fantastical creatures and stunning backdrops, the film is reminiscent of the captivating otherworldly appeal of Spirited Away. It is an entirely different story, of course, but it has a similar feel which helps make it even more entrancing and its narrative also draws viewers in with ease, charming them as it goes.
While it is beautiful, the transition from 2D to 3D animation is not seamless and some scenes are a little jaunted as a result. When the story reaches its climax the narrative also becomes unnecessarily complex, pitting many characters against each other with little explanation and featuring several ‘endings’ before reaching its end. While this doesn’t dampen the appeal of the film, it does make it a little hard to keep up with the narrative at its most tense moments.
Big Fish & Begonia features a captivating story all the same, and with its stellar animation it proves to be a great tale of love and loss. The film’s mystical origins helps to strengthen its charm as a film, and the beautiful characters and visuals are unforgettable. It will draw you in and stay with you long after the narrative draws to a close.
Review by Roxy Simons