REVIEW: The Bigger Picture [2014]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 7 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (UK)
Director(s): Daisy Jacobs
Writer(s): Daisy Jacobs & Jennifer Majka

“Now all I think about is death”

For once publicity jargon—namely “The Bigger Picture is quite simply the most innovative animated short you will see this year”—is backed up because this Oscar-nominated short is a stunning feat of mixed media animation. The subject matter is a downer considering it deals with two grown brothers one of whom cares for their mother and questions whether putting her in a home is better solution for her while the other hardly around screams about such thoughts as inhumane, but the aesthetic bringing their tale to life must be seen to be believed. Painted on the walls of a life-sized set with papier-mâché limbs protruding when necessary to interact with physical objects, the sheer scope of having to permanently paint over each composed frame before starting the next is impossible to imagine.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing because it seemed so intense a process. A bag of groceries empties on the a kitchen counter with the man doing it (Christopher Nightingale‘s Nick) flat against the wall, effortlessly moving along the painted plaster to disprove my initial thought he was merely superimposed above it. An impressionistic car drives on the glass window and Richard (Alisdair Simpson) arrives, shifting past his brother so he is bisected atop a cupboard door before angering Nick enough to open said door and force the face that made him mad out of sight. Pouring water rains plastic onto the floor a la The LEGO Movie‘s translucent blocks doing the same; a vacuum cleaner literally sucks up an entire scene; and the lighting in night sequences looks like a Godfried Schalcken painting.

Director Daisy Jacobs has outdone herself visually and in the process has allowed my brain to push the plot she and Jennifer Majka wrote completely to the background. The heaviness of the situation and inevitable certainty of mankind needing to care for ailing, aging, and dying parents doesn’t help, but I became lost in its unique picture as opposed to the poignant message above it. Death looms large from the beginning with an underappreciated son belittled by the woman he’s sacrificed personal success to save and his high-flying, smooth-talking brother thinking about important things from a purely academic position until reality slaps him awake. You will need to watch twice to devote the focus integral to experiencing what’s happening, but in all honesty I’d have viewed it again to see the animation. Its story depth is a bonus.

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