Writers/directors/animators Job, Joris & Marieke may be my new favorite computer animation team. Unlike Pixar or Dreamworks, however, I’m not sure I’d ever want them to go feature length since their style is so perfectly suited to the short form. Their Oscar-nominated A Single Life was my first introduction to them as well as my hopeful for Academy glory before their eventual defeat to the equally brilliant Feast from a rejuvenated Disney Studios. The character design is far from realistic and perhaps unattractive in a conventional sense, but it’s unique and gets the job of carrying profound emotional stories to fruition down. With (Otto) I can safely say their success was no fluke. Not only does their latest continue to pull at heartstrings, it also showcases some expert camerawork to tell its tale without words.
(Otto) travels between two parallel threads that converge once in the middle and again at the end. Thread One deals with a young couple desperate to discover their lack of conceiving a child has been due to bad luck as opposed to faulty biology. Thread Two shows a happy-go-lucky girl who plays patty cake with her titular imaginary friend. As the would-be parents withdraw from their news it’s this little girl who brings a smile to the woman’s face. They are all at a diner and the youngster is jetting around with the giggles in a game of hide-and-seek. The woman watches with bittersweet joy, playing along as her husband rolls his eyes in self-pity and frustration. Wanting this fun to never end, she does something you wouldn’t expect. She takes Otto home.
What follows is super cute in that Otto is completely invisible and yet fully realized in the woman and girl’s minds. As soon as the former takes him, the latter can’t find him. Job, Joris & Marieke take painstaking care to ensure we know exactly where he is at all times, though, with low vantage points and determined pans. The characters we do see are all extremely expressive with succinct gestures and authentic emotion on a road towards finding exactly what each desires. The journey has some fantastic flourishes like an adorable mean streak from the girl once she discovers the truth of what happened. And in the end it’s up to imagination to provide the couple an escape from the depression of their circumstances. Love is not only for families and families aren’t only built through pregnancy.
Courtesy of TIFF