A Minuscule Adventure

*****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Minuscule - Mandibles From Far Away
"Instead of dialogue, the insects speak in kazoo and beeps, making this easy to follow for even the youngest of audiences but there's no dumbing down in terms of storytelling." | Photo: Futurikon Films - Ifilmfilm - France 3 cinéma

Hollywood animators like to talk the talk. In Europe, they realise that silence can be golden - just ask, or rather, take a look at Shaun The Sheep and Pingu. In the fine tradition of silent storytelling comes this latest from French directors Hélène Giraud and Thomas Szabo - their second Minuscule movie after Valley Of The Last Ants - which immerses us in a world of cutie-crawlies.

In the first instalment, a friendship was formed between a small black ant and a ladybird. Just as well, because it's soon going to count - but you don't need to know this in advance. The French valley - like the previous movie and TV show, real nature locations are used throughout - is descending into winter and the ladybird family are preparing, stocking up in a way that becomes its own mini-adventure as the snow begins to fall. Just as they have settled down to sleep, however, trouble is brewing for their black ant chum, who finds himself in a bit of a mess with the bullying red ants and calls for help.

Copy picture

Before you can say, "Fly away home", one of the little ladybirds has got themselves trapped in a box of chestnut puree - this is a French film after all - and finds themselves bound for Guadeloupe. Soon they, with parent in tow, will be on an unfamiliar island, while the ant enlists an unlikely ally and an unusual mode of transport to launch a rescue mission.

Instead of dialogue, the insects speak in kazoo and beeps, making this easy to follow for even the youngest of audiences but there's no dumbing down in terms of storytelling. Giraud and Szabo have created a richly detailed world - whether its stacked marshmallows, a lost iPod or a pile of smelly cigarettes studiously ignored by our ant pal - and they find great weight even in the smallest gesture between the animals. They also draw on the actual attributes of the insects, so that we see the little ladybird "farting" its yellow/green defence hemolymph (some kids' jokes are evergreen) and the ants lifting 100 times their weight.

There's no indication as to what sex any of the little critters are, so even in that regard, imagination is encouraged, and there's plenty of danger and adventure along the way - whether from a dyspeptic shark or a furry spider that's ready to play with our heroes as a cat would with a mouse.

Helping drive the action lovely sweeping orchestral scoring Mathieu Lamboley that sets the scene and raises the stakes when required, also providing one or two moments of clever humour courtesy of a friendly spider who likes the classics. The film may be full of little creatures, but it doesn't want for big ideas, finding time to incorporate an environmental message that is neatly stitched into the fabric of the story. A perfect family film that celebrates all creatures small and great.

Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2019
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A Minuscule Adventure packshot
With winter approaching in the valley, reserves for the cold season are of utmost importance. When a small ladybird gets trapped inside a shipment heading for the Caribbean, however, their father must set off on a heroic overseas journey to rescue his beloved offspring.

Director: Hélène Giraud, Thomas Szabo

Writer: Hélène Giraud, Thomas Szabo

Starring: Bruno Salomone, Thierry Frémont, Stéphane Coulon

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: France

Festivals:

Glasgow 2019

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