Away is available to purchase on digital platforms from 18th January as well as from Curzon home cinema from 25th January. It’s an award winning debut animation feature from 26 year old Latvian Gints Zilbalodis, a simple feel good story with a slightly dark undertone that follows the trials of a young boy who finds himself the lone survivor from a plane crash stuck on a strange island. 

Told through the boy’s journey across the island and ultimately his survival, it doesn’t have any dialogue and relies upon visual images and symbolism to tell the story. It imagines a deserted island inhabited by a just a few animals, of whom he befriends a little yellow bird that becomes his companion and there’s also a giant shadow monster that seems intent on blocking his path – a path marked out with stone arches like a race course that he has to complete.

Written, animated, edited and scored by Gints, who has single-handedly created this animated world from start to finish, a feat not to be too quickly discarded when you consider the long list of credits that usually accompanies an animated feature, and so it is any wonder it took him 3 and a half years to complete. 

He has managed to create an all-round cohesiveness using the animated software, zooming in and out of landscapes and close-ups to good effect. Its simplicity is its strength but it is not without a depth of meaning too that would appeal to both children and adults. The shadow monster is like the desert island’s version of the black rabbit in Watership Down, an omnipresent ghoul as a gentle allegory of life and death. 

The fact that today’s cartoons and animations have never gone down the hyperrealism route with much success means that the basicness of this animation, which seems to switch between rudimentary graphics to impressive dreamscape sketches, doesn’t overly detract from its overall worthiness. The film has been divided into chapters, which provide momentary interludes but add little in the way of telling the story – perhaps a sign of the animator’s lack of confidence to deliver a silent animation feature, understandably considering today’s prerequisite for explosive action, but he needn’t have worried.

The film score like the animation itself is simple but effective, complementing the animation perfectly and is something Gints had to find out how to do from scratch. This is someone clearly learning their craft, showing a real knack for being able to build emotions through visuals and sound alone.

We can draw our own conclusions of the film’s messages but Gints himself describes it as being about his own creative journey and what it feels like working on an incredibly challenging project. It makes quiet relaxing viewing, simple but clever, it’s a heart-warming boy’s own story suitable for anyone with a challenging project ahead of them.

Film: Away

Animation: Gints Zilbalodis

Genre: Animation

Run time: 1hr 15min

Rated: U

Rating: 4/5

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