Eye For Film >> Movies >> A Costume For Nicholas (2020) Film Review
A Costume For Nicholas
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Nicolas doesn't have nightmares. That's unusual in a ten-year-old boy, but then, Nicolas' life has been unusual. He has Down syndrome (and is voiced by Down syndrome actors), and his mother was always very attentive to him. We see her in the early stages of the film, curling up beside him in the little tent where he sleeps and telling him stories. Then, abruptly, she vanishes. Older viewers will understand from the sadness of grandparents Mia and Tomás that she has died, but Nicolas hasn't a clue. His grandparents take him in and he takes solace, in her absence, from the costumes she has made him.
"Some people use costumes to hide who they really are inside and other people use costumes to show how truly amazing they are," says Tomás, trying to explain the confusing behaviour of Nicolas' cousin David, whose room he is moved into. David's father is away all the time on long work-related excursions and the boy is lonely. It's understandable that he would resent suddenly having to share with a stranger, let alone an uncool one who can't usefully join in with the games he wants to play at school. "He won't learn unless you teach him," Tomás advises, but David is already under enough stress. He does have nightmares.
What follows is a magical adventure with a monkey, a pirate, a cowboy, a yeti and more, all brought about by Nicolas' determination to use the powers granted by his costumes to take on the monster that sneaks into the room every night, attracted by David's nightmares. The older boy is sceptical at first but ultimately gets drawn into Nicolas' magical world as the two go on a quest to save a princess from a tower in an enchanted kingdom, only to discover that nothing is quite what it seems.
There's a good deal here about the importance of family and friendship, imagination and courage, but the central take-away is an interesting one: that nightmares are simply part of life, not things we should try to avoid. It's part of a broader, more subtly advanced argument that we should face our problems rather than trying to hide from them or letting them intimidate us. In this context, Nicolas' genetic difference confers an advantage, so the film also teaches young viewers that those who might not easily fit in can have their own hidden strengths, their own important contributions too make.
With bright, cheerful animation and good use of simple fantasy settings, A Costume For Nicolas fitted in well at this year's Fantasia and is well suited to younger viewers. There are some scary monsters but all of them ultimately have a nice side (just wait until you see the beaverdile) and besides, if you support what the film has to say, you'll be ready to talk over any related fears rather than just avoiding them in the first place. This is a film about learning to engage with the more difficult aspects of life but it's age appropriate and sweet-natured, and it provides plenty of fun along the way.Reviewed on: 19 Aug 2020