3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

For those who took the time to watch the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony earlier in 2020, you may have heard of an animated film called I Lost My Body. It was competing in Best Animated Feature Film category with movies like Toy Story 4 and Missing Link. Eventually losing to the Pixar film, but not without receiving the notoriety of being one of the Netflix films that were nominated. From Jeremy Clapin, a celebrated French writer and director who is known for his short films and unique cinematic perspective.

A story that follows the path of Naoufel (voiced in English by Dev Patel) and his severed hand. A non-linear adventure that depicts his life as a boy growing up in Morocco and his painful transition to living with an emotionally distant uncle in France. Through a series of flashbacks, we can see how as a child, he dreamt of being a concert pianist and an astronaut. Still, as a young adult he must be satisfied with the life of a pizza delivery man. It was through this role that he is introduced to Gabrielle (voiced in English by Alia Shawkat), a young lady who Naoufel tries to connect with on a romantic level. Her uncle is a carpenter who had been looking for an apprentice in carpentry for years. Even with no experience, the young Moroccan applies for the position. 

Throughout the retelling of Naoufel’s short life, the story is overplayed with a hand escaping from a medical lab. A surreal journey that was reminiscent of watching Thing from The Addams Family attempting to get back to its body. An imaginative perspective of an appendage as it travels through the streets of a French city. Battling rodents, the elements and the limitations of moving without the benefit of the rest of his body.

A bizarre, macabre pilgrimage that seems better placed in the latest horror script opposed to being in the same category that is usually ruled by Disney. This dream-like animated affair has a beauty that will draw audiences into the whole visual spectacle. It becomes evident that the hand is seeking out Naoufel. Still, the multi-layered and compelling narrative makes up for the somewhat disconcerting aspects of the hand’s journey. 

Jeremy Clapin provides a post-modern, surrealist storyline that honours his French heritage that may make it hard for many to fully appreciate. There is a simplicity to the dialogue and life of the central character that makes the film accessible. This is countered with the use of incomplete character arches and the conclusion will leave modern audiences scratching their heads. A visual triumph on multiple levels, but a screenplay that is targeted to an adult audience. I Lost My Body would be better placed with anime than with the fans of Pixar. 

What should parents know about the Academy Award-nominated animated film? Naoufel’s story is not meant for the younger set. The language, the sexual content, and disturbing imagery of a severed hand places this is another category of animation. It is designed for the cinephile who wants to see the merger of European sensibilities with masterful animation. A disconcerting, surreal study for those who desire to learn more about the world of cinema and not expecting to have anything resolved in the end. 

REEL DIALOGUE: Are we only meant to suffer in this life?

Naoufel’s story of survival takes the statement, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” to a strange level. Woven into this sordid tale of loss, suffering and regret is the consideration of how far man’s will can be stretched. The pizza delivery man was powered by the desire to see some peace from his circumstance, but even the end shows that this goal can lead to a hollow victory. 

What needs to be considered is how the difficulties in life, if we survive them, can make us better in the end. The amazing story of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible gives us a glimpse into a similar experience to Nauofel’s experience and how there can be a bigger reason behind the challenges of life. The reason for the difficulties may not all be explained in this lifetime, but they can be used to show how life’s tribulations can potentially bless others and honour God. 

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. –1 Peter 5:10