The Red Turtle is a dialogue-less animated movie about a castaway who is prevented by a giant turtle from sailing away from the deserted tropical island he has drifted into, causing him to establish a new life and start a family on that island. (Giving further plot details would spoil the story surprises it has.)
This movie is co-produced by Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli. And, yes, the only reason that I wanted to watch this in the first place was because Ghibli was involved. Technically, it’s not an actual addition to their awesome portfolio, as the studio is currently in an indefinite break from making movies (officially on a “restructuring” after Miyazaki’s retirement). Nonetheless, their “collaborative” influence on The Red Turtle gives the movie a sense of legitimacy as a source of obtaining one’s Ghibli fix while waiting for an official, post-When Marnie Was There Ghibli film (though, it looks like it’ll be quite a while, as Ghibli is seemingly going to focus more on collaborative productions like The Red Turtle in the following years).
The Red Turtle is immaculately majestic. Even with no dialogue helping the narrative, the lavishly pleasing animation and vivid sound design are amply sufficient to tell an endearing tale. I was invested on it from start to finish.
As for its plot, I’m a bit weirded out by some details, which kind of turned me off a bit from looking into it deeper, if there’s something profound in there or not. At the surface, I find it a simple – a bit whimsical – story, but it has this charming “folk-fairy tale” vibe going for it. All in all, the story doesn’t overreach, making it work for what it needs to be.
To sum it up, The Red Turtle is a great treat. What it might lack in storytelling substance, it more than makes up in terms of fantastic visual storytelling. It’s stylishly different from traditional Ghibli films, but it does have the same kind of rich “specialness” about it.