Written, directed and animated by Gints Zilbalodis, Away has a dreamlike quality about it that makes it beautiful to watch – but feels slightly soulless.

This dreamlike animated film by Gints Zilbalodis has plenty to recommend it – particularly if you have a strong interest in animation and techniques that are used. However, this silent film doesn’t have a particularly strong narrative style that can meander in places, making it difficult to really comprehend what is happening.

The basic outline of the plot is a boy who has crashed onto an island and now must try and find a way home, while being pursued by a strange shadowy monster who is intent on swallowing him whole. What is not so clear is the purpose of this monster – is it the boy’s demons chasing him and trying to affect his life? Or is it a real monster that he has to escape as part of finding his way home?

It is a shame that this isn’t made clearer because knowing that would have given the film a bit of extra depth and understanding for audiences to really get behind the central character emotionally. As it is, it feels slightly soulless in terms of the plot.

This being said, there is no denying that visually it is really beautiful to look at. The concept for the scenery shows great imagination, while the techniques applied to create texture and effect really make you feel as though you can almost be there yourself. It really feels like a lot of care and attention has been applied, showing how Zilbalodis has been using every element of his knowledge and technique to great effect.

Meanwhile, the music and sound effects used throughout really break up the silence nicely, enhancing the quietness and ominousness of the island as a whole. Understated, each sound or segment of music adds to the sense of drama – in particular, the opening sequence when the boy is escaping from the parachute and running from the shadowy monster, the music adds tension beautifully, drawing the audience in.

To say that Away is an incredible achievement for Gints Zilbalodis having done every element by himself is an understatement. It pulls you in with its imagination and artistry, never quite knowing where it is going to go next. If only it had a stronger narrative that would have made it stand out even more.

By Emma Clarendon

Away is available to pre-order now from Apple TV and iTunes. It can be purchased from Sky Store, Amazon, Google, Microsoft,  Rakuten and Sony from January 18th, as well as Curzon Home Cinema from 25th January. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐