Borrowed Time (2015)
Dirs: Andrew Coats, Lou Hamou-Lhadj
A side project of Pixar animators, this is not exactly in the studio’s style in terms of story or content, yet it’s absolutely up to their high standards and is a testament to the way they develop talent.
Simply, an aged man returns to the scene of a tragedy from his youth.
At less than 7 minutes long the film packs some serious emotional heft into a very simple and concise story. It has all the familiar features of a western, with the typical rocky setting, horse-drawn carts and sheriffs which act as shorthand to tell us much of what we need to know about the characters and situation. The story itself goes much darker than a Pixar-produced short ever would, specifically there’s one particular moment that took the tone of the film to a level I was not expecting yet was exceptionally well handled. It tells the story very visually, there’s not a lot of voice work, just a few short lines done by friends and colleagues of the directors, with each one being straight to the point.
This stands clearly distinct from what the directors’ employers would release, being less ‘family-friendly’, yet it retains a slightly familiar animation style. The directors have drawn on their experience and on that of their friends and colleagues to put this together. The environment looks really striking, while the characters have hints of a familiar style though their facial features are bolder and more drawn than often seen.
I follow the official page on Facebook and it’s fascinating to see some of the additional materials they are sharing about the development of the film and the way in which the animation is built up and composed. It’s not a Pixar film but some credit has got to go to them for the way they nurture talented animators, not just developing the art of animation but more the fine skill of storytelling. They learn to plot out a story, work things through and storyboard it as they won’t have the time or resources to animate and render lots that’ll just get cut from the film later.
This year’s ‘Animated Short Film’ Oscar category is full of animators who tell know how to tell their stories visually, with little or no dialogue, in a way that’s universally effective and can make something that may run for just a few minutes but leave a lasting impact. ‘Borrowed Time’ is the most hard hitting of these that I’ve seen so far, with visual and emotional depth that left me a little stunned.
‘Borrowed Time’ has been cleaning up the festival awards, now nominated for the Academy Award for ‘Best Animated Short’ it faces tougher competition than it has thus far, so I don’t think it’ll be triumphant again but it’s a fantastic piece of work that’s really worth seeing.