VOD film review: Away (2019)
Ivan Radford | On 24, Jan 2021
Director: Gints Zilbalodis
Cast: Gints Zilbalodis
Watch Away (2019) online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
A tree stands in the middle of a barren landscape. Hanging from it is a young boy, suspended in mid-air by a parachute. His plane, gone. His bearings, lost. His plan? Get away from the giant, shadowy figure advancing towards him. There isn’t much more to the plot for Away, an eccentric, unusual animation from Latvian filmmaker Gints Zilbalodis. It’s a wordless, surreal piece of art – and it’s utterly mesmerising.
Spanning just 70 minutes, the film follows the young boy who, accompanied by a tiny bird, tries to get back home from this strange island. It’s an understated, unusual creation, one that strips away any in-depth layered animation or 3D backdrops and leaves us with something almost elemental – a simply drawn, brightly coloured portrait that boldly leaves its protagonist as a blank canvas on which we can project his emotional journey.
The journey itself is split into five chapters, and the puzzle-like mystery that accompanies each new scenario makes this feel almost like watching a video game. If so, this old-fashioned, stylised creation is the best-looking game you’ve seen this year, with sequences regularly taking your breath away – one set piece involving a motorbike across a reflective lake, surrounded by a flock of birds, is stunningly brought to life.
In itself, that’s an achievement enough, but Away’s most surprising quality is that it was written and animated by one person. Gints Zilbalodis directs, produces and even scores his work, spending more than three years on the silent feature, and it’s time that really pays off – every little detail of this dream-like world, and its wonderfully evocative soundtrack, is a calling card for the filmmaker. The result is a unique, original fable about overcoming fear, accepting nature and the importance of companionship. It’s beautifully minimal, but conjures up dreamy expanses that linger in the memory for hours.
Away is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.