Rosario Castellanos is an introverted university student who doesn't seem to belong to her time. In the early 1950s in Mexico City, she is fighting to have voice heard in a society run by ... See full summary »
This movie, whose title translates to "The Angel in the Clock" is a very brave proposition from Mexico's animation industry, which has had a very marked tendency of continuing to believe that animation is "for children", with stories that usually fall within the stereotypes of very childish humor, non-fluid animation with plain character designs and boringly simple plots (see: most of Ánima Estudios' output). "The Angel" sets itself aside from most of these from the very start by making it clear that Amelia, the protagonist, is a young girl undergoing cancer treatment.
She cannot exert herself too much (a pain since her biggest passion is dance) and she sports a shaved head (this, along with her animation made it impossible for me not to think of her as "girl Aang") throughout. With this in mind, the plot has lofty aspirations for being a Very-Important-Family-Movie-About-Emotional-Maturity, like "Bridge to Terabithia" or even "A Monster Calls". It doesn't succeed entirely, mosty due to some narrative hiccups, but Amelia's situation leads to the movie being overall surprisingly philosophical about the subject of time (clearly a key topic for anyone with such a heavy illness, and for those who surround them).
The movie is also distinguished by visuals that, again, are unlike those of most of its peers. The character and background designs owe a massive debt to sources as diverse as The Legend of Zelda, Guillermo del Toro and Studio Ghibli (at times a bit TOO massive, while I loved the character of No-Time, its name and design blur the line between homage and plagiarism to No-Face), leading to an original and very pleasing visual cocktail. A significant portion of the budget must have gone to the SFX animation because it is truly world-class for this type of cel-shaded animation, I do not exaggerate in saying that it is as good as that in a GOOD anime. All this in addition to an effective soundtrack make "The Angel" one of those rare Mexican movies that fully understands the importance of audiovisuals in cinema.
I mentioned the budget mostly going to SFX and this brings me to the weak spots of the film, one of which is that the rest of the animation doesn't live up to its high points. This is a relatively cheap production, and it shows. While there are methods to make limited resources go a long way, the character animation usually just scrapes by. While the plot manages to cleverly handle some heavy, bold themes, the actual narrative is cobbled together and the seams of where tension or coincidences are forced in definitely tend to show. Some characters, specially the typical "comic relief companions" aren't that funny and don't really transcend those roles.
This is not a perfect movie, its flaws are undeniable and noticeable, but it is also importantly brave and novel for its context. Mexican animation rarely dares to try something so different from its usual toothless, hard G-rated fare, so to see a project like "The Angel", with imaginative visuals, philosophical dialogues about time and a very atypical protagonist really makes one hopeful for the possible future of the industry (yes, even when the Here and Now are what matter most).
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