Heartwarming and magical in every aspect, in Onward Pixar offers us a fresh new animated feature that feels good and empowers the spirit. Taking its origin from the personal life of director and screenwriter Dan Scanlon, the story puts the spotlight on brotherhood and hope, devoid of soppy tones, set against the backdrop of an exciting enchanted quest.
Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), teenage elf siblings, live in a suburban fantasy world with their mother, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), having lost their father when very little. The younger of them, Ian, is trying to fit in at college, fighting with his insecurity. For his 16th birthday, he and his brother receive a pre-arranged present from their father: a rod and a phoenix stone that will materialise the lost parent for 24 hours only. But the spell doesn’t work completely, and the two brothers are set on an adventure against time to find what will fulfil their greatest desire to spend a few moments with the much-missed member of their family.
The narrative has a very good pace and it entails some twists and turns that are not too predictable. The protagonists are quite far from the image of mighty superheroes, rather embodying the instabilities and questions of their age. And this is not only in relation to the friends and school environment, in light of bullying or isolation, but delving into the decisions and judgments within the family. The parent versus son/daughter collision has already been treated, and more than once, by Pixar and company, and an example of a similar investigation into sisterhood could be seen in Frozen. Onward, though, seeks to explore more in depth the blissful assurance of a supportive relationship, where we couldn’t see one, where the standards and rules of the world blind us from seeing true love. It goes beyond appearance, uncovered rather by subtle and gradual discovery through an enchanted expedition. It’s a tale of the discovery of a solid bond as well as of personal development by rising to meet challenges.
The characters make fun of serious sequences, overlaying what would have looked like pretentiously solemn scenes with a lighthearted tone more in tune with the rest of the movie. The animation doesn’t lack weighty moments, but it succeeds in confining them to the right time without overstressing them. There is little to say about the clear and vibrant graphic: Pixar proves once again that it is simply at the top of its game. And starting the decade with such an enjoyable work, tellingly in collaboration with Disney, it sets the path ahead as promising indeed.
Onward is released nationwide on 6 March 2020.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Onward here: