“Hey, Hublot. I think you forgot to turn the key once more.”
For OCD-ridden Mr. Hublot, life is a steady series of mundane tasks to ensure everything is in working order around the house and exactly where his mind needs them to be. He wakes up, flicks his light switches off and on, adjusts the frames hanging on his wall, and rearranges his biscuit and salt shaker to the optimal positions before settling in for his cup of coffee. He notices when things are amiss yet has the ability to ignore them without a second glance so he may continue his own monotonous existence in the confines of his metallic igloo home at the center of a bustling city. But there’s something about the whimpering bark of a tiny robot dog alone on the street below that he simply cannot shake.
Co-directors Alexandre Espigares and Laurent Witz (who also wrote) have crafted a very cute tale of companionship and the power of the heart conquering the mind through their titular character’s surprising ache for the little toaster outside his window. Set in a cartoony steampunk world that reminded me of a friendlier, G-rated sibling to Shane Acker‘s 9, Mr. Hublot is someone children and adults can relate to alike. He is mild-mannered, quiet, and set in his ways until that yearning to no longer be alone sparks an intrinsic feeling within for more. We see him struggle with the status quo, needing to flick that light switch one more time despite knowing the poor puppy is about to be shredded by the garbage truck—psychologically trapped yet reaching out to embrace his latent empathy.
Like pet owner, the initial satisfaction of bringing it home to love and care for quickly turns to frustration as its size makes it more obtrusive to the solitary life once lived. Hublot is no exception as his new friend grows exponentially and disrupts every mental tick he has by making a manageable insanity into a powder keg of craziness that cannot be quelled when one move by the dog crashes ten things to the ground. There’s potential for the story to turn dark once Hublot tweaks out and grabs an electric screwdriver, but you hope for love to prevail. And all the while broad visual jokes rule the day inside this idiosyncratic world of moving gears where a pitiable stray can transform our hermit into a man with purpose above the systematic neuroses propelling him forward each day.