Birdboy: The Forgotten Children looks like it has everything children would want. The film animates an array of talking critters who wish to go on an epic adventure. Just the title invokes a sort of whimsy as it makes you think about whether Mickey Mouse and Birdboy would be friends, but then you'd be wrong.
No, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is not a film meant for kids. The macabre film may be animated, but it lends itself to ideas sinister enough to take aback adults.
The movie, which adapts a graphic novel titled Psychonauts, was drawn to life by Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez. Birdboy: The Forgotten Children debuted in its native Spain some time ago, but GKids has finally brought it to the U.S. for animation enthusiasts and niche artsy audiences. The movie may intimidate some with its themes and bleak aesthetic, but Birdboy’s somber story is a surprisingly touching one which deserves to be seen.
The film uses animals to tell a rather jarring story about despair. Set on an island ravaged by nuclear war, fans meet a young mouse named Dinky who dreams of little more than escaping her hellish home. The girl lives under the oppressive rule of her zealous mother who wields a bleeding doll of baby Jesus. Determined to leave the island, Dinky creates a plan with her friends to do just that. The heroine ropes in her ex-boyfriend Birdboy, the bullied Little Fox, and demon-infested Sandra on the plan. But, as you can guess, leaving the once-paradisal island is easier said than done.
At just over an hour long, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children packs a lot into its compressed runtime. The animated film is not apologetic about its dread-inducing aspects, and it uses artwork that is both ugly and beautiful. Watching Birdboy is an assault to the senses, and its mismatched pacing brings a sense of unease to viewers which unsettles and excites. Dinky and her comrades must evade bloodthirsty child soldiers, grotesque monsters, fascist police officers, and their own (literal) demons. The frightening exploration of topics like drug addiction only scratches the surface of what Birdboy grapples with, but poignant moments of hope do pierce through the film like a lighthouse just beyond a storm.
Birdboy: The Forgotten Children is a story about suffering, but it is also one of recovery. As the start of a new generation, Dinky’s crew looks to renew their worldview, and Birdboy never ceases his journey towards flight. Rivers of blood may cut through their home, but the damaged kids manage to spark a fire that will one day dry up those forsaken wells. The film’s caustic journey may be hard to watch, and Birdboy relishes in its surreal violence while asking audiences to watch its heroes discover what autonomy truly is. Its characters may be palatable to children, but Birdboy’s poignant story is one that adults have the most to gain from.