Every evening, Solen tells a fantastic story, in which she’s the main character, to her little sister Luna. However, Luna’s far from guessing the secret that is hidden between the lines.
It is a rare gift to be able to couch themes and topics like bullying into a heart-warming family tale without undercutting the severity of such a topic or its potential consequences. Dropping us immediately into a world of wonder and adventure, the film is underscored by the bravery of its protagonist Solen. As the film progresses, however, it becomes more and more apparent that these stories are not just stories.
When establishing the relationship between Solen, her little sister Luna and their mother, the film walks a fine line between heart-warming and saccharine. It is important to establish how much the members of this family love one another. This goes double for Luna, who revels in her big sister’s stories of peril and heroism. While on the surface, this kind of borderline hyper-sentimentality fits well with the animation style employed and the child-centric fantasy elements depicted, the real genius of the film is using these elements as a vehicle for much darker and tonally serious film.
On a stylistic level, the implementation of a simple animation style expertly obscures the level of subtle technicality and nuanced character performance, which the directors and animators use to communicate that all may not be as it seems. It also serves to create a sense of innocence, which makes the revelation of the true source of Solen’s stories all the more heartbreaking. Additionally, the tone and style employed while initially presenting as somewhat child-centric, as the film goes on and the true nature of Solen’s tales reveals itself, evolves into stunning, multi-shaded almost watercolour landscapes. Without an overt shift in style, the film literally transforms with our perspective.
One of the most powerful aspects of experiencing this film is being tricked into thinking that you are watching a children’s movie. The emotional revelations of this story hit hard, and it would not be hard to imagine anyone who shares the experiences of the main character putting themselves in her place. This is character-driven, sensitively handled and beautifully crafted art that speaks to internal turmoil and family trauma in a way few films can. It succeeds in immersing the viewer into the fantasy and frankly the horror of Solen’s experiences without overplaying the emotion or expanding the story beyond where it needs to go. Coming in at under seven minutes, this film masters the art of efficient storytelling, sacrificing none of its power or craft.
Being able to talk about difficult topics like those depicted in this film is as important as it is difficult, not least because it often affects people at such a young age. While some may look at the style and aesthetic of a film like this as an attempt to make the subject matter palatable for children, its use of innocence to mask (and then subsequently reveal) it’s true message is very much a clarion call for adults.
Tell Me A Story manages to pull at heartstrings without manipulating us. Most impressively, its creators deliver a short film experience that is not just suitable for families, but custom made for them, providing the affection, adventure and true heart that makes great movies memorable.
Studio: ESMA Movies | Year: 2021 | Genre: Animation/Fantasy/Drama | Duration: 6 Mins | Suitability: General (Advisory - Potentially upsetting subject matter)
Find out more about the film using the links below: