Having already captivated all senses its diversified audience carries to the theaters, Coco (2017) by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures revels in what I might call “ an impish aesthetic”; quite similar to Up (2009) and Inside Out (2016) but at the same time, differently gripping. An eye-popping tale which moves one to sob quite the bucket, Coco drives home the same supressed emotions but with magnified novelty. No wonder the Academy Awards have heaped praise on it for the storytelling marvel it is.
The film, directed by Lee Unkrich, is a magnificent animation that every admirer or detractor of the genre immediately takes a shine to. Miguel Riviera is like music, making people happy wherever he goes. This young protagonist’s restless soul however, in the face of the familial stigma against music, is desperate to “seize the moment”. This motto, engraved on the bust of his role model, Ernesto De La Cruz, is something Miguel lives by. His great-great grandmother had been abandoned loveless and penniless by her husband for the paramour known as music. The scar had cut across generations of his family of shoemakers, decidedly stoic in matters of song and dance. They had almost eradicated the humane epidemic of music from the lives in an effort to honour the sentiments of their fore-“mother”. On the eve Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead), Miguel’s guitar is splintered by his unsympathetic grandmother. As a consequence he runs away, with his desire to play at the fair turning even more resolute. Unable to wring out even a tear let alone a performance slot from the hardest of hearts, he is inspired to steal De La Cruz’s guitar lying above the epitaph. Next we know, he is travelling across a bubbling bridge of marigolds with skeletons and luminescent spirit animals, unprepared for the journey of his life (err, death).
The interplay of colour and imagination is made all the more beautiful with the underlying tune of “Remember Me”. Music is so utterly significant in the narrative that without it one cannot hope to smile when one should be sobbing or hope to laugh when they should be bawling. Such is the genius of Coco. The peppy cheerfulness amid nervousness of “Un Poco Loco” lights up the land of dead with life. Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez have to be lauded for such ingenious melodies.
A tight script and fast paced action ensures that our attention is glued to the screen. The plot is strewn with surprises which quite like a guitar note are both major and minor. Miguel’s discovery of his great-great grandmother’s ability to sing is an inevitable part of his search for the music within himself. Humorous dialogues often motivational in delivery draw out poignancy from a generation bent upon giving up its heart, not to be heartless but hurt less.
Distinctive Hollywood-ness being blended into the subtext, Pixar creates an unmatched colour palette covering every area with a strain of the magical. The visuals are breathtaking in parity with a general air of mysticism the plot demands. There are certain scenes in the film where unreal design seems more real than reality itself. When Gerald vanishes and Hector obtains the guitar for Miguel, vodka glasses are made to look as if the viewer only needs an invitation, albeit a silent one, to drink from them. Mama Coco’s close-ups are too lifelike to admit that she is not an actual woman, but merely an element of animation, kept alive as if waiting for some long forgotten dream to be fulfilled. The painstakingly created Mexican streets subtly capture a coming of age culture in pagan celebrations with profundity of thought and action. The vibrant Latin American aura provides the necessary punch to the storytelling. Local menagerie and folk traditions like Alebrijes and Dia De Muertos are simulated with intimacy.
Despite being a powerhouse of adventure (a major part in that is played by Dante) at the heart of it the idea is a delicate one; urging the viewer to follow their intuition even if the closest of people oppose that passion. At the same time, it underscores that our choices might not always be as astute as we may think them to be, that in times like these family and loved ones shall never turn their backs on us. Strides in this regard can be summed up by Helen O’Hara in The Empire:
“… it’s ultimately as story about family connections and the complicated ways we love one another.”
The movie advances the thought that young blood should not be afraid of the reaper. If you sow well in life, you shall reap the dividends in afterlife. You might chase money, fame or success but in death, you can only hope your family remembers you for generations to come.
Picture Credits : variety.com