The Day Of The Crows


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Complex and immersive, funny but with a sense of danger lurking in its darker moments, this is the sort of film that children and adults will watch to the end and then want to watch again."

Although adapted from a 2005 novel by Jean-François Beauchemin, this family film is a kindred spirit of older fairy tales, where children must be resourceful in the face of ogre-like adults and where friendship and imagination can win the day. Jean-Christophe Dessaint's hand-drawn animation also has an old-fashioned feel - its balding central character with an endlessly enjoyable range of facial expressions, recalls The Rugrats or something by Quentin Blake - but this is a carefully woven story that reaches beyond the surface smiles of much of Hollywood's animated output to offer children an adventure that is about more than just linking together action pieces.

At its heart is a little boy (voiced by Lorànt Deutsch). In a reversal of the more common 'lost in the woods' theme, he is wild through and through, having been raised under the trees' protective canopy by his father Pumpkin (Jean Reno). Pumpkin is a bear of a man, growling through his life and dragging his child in his wake, instilling fear not love in his bones and always warning, at the edge of the woods, that "the world beyond will get you". But when Pumpkin is injured, his son makes the choice to venture into the open. There, he encounters a kindly doctor (Claude Chabrol's final role before his death) and forms a friendship with his daughter Manon (Isabelle Carré), who sees beyond the boy's rough and ready exterior. Once again, it is the people and not the environment which the boy must contend with - from the witch-like Mrs Bramble to an army barracks filled with soldiers who are, arguably, more savage in their tendencies than the youngster, shooting at birds for nothing more than sport.

Copy picture

The presence of animal spirits in the woods - creatures who, we learn have the spirits of the dead - prove confusing initially, although children are more likely to go with the flow than adults. The crows of the title also show up quite late in the day, but they are well worth the wait. It is, however, the dual story of the boy's friendship with Manon and his troubled relationship with Pumpkin that sparkle, reminiscent of ideas often explored in Studio Ghibli films. We fervently hope the little guy will find comfort in a more earthly realm, away from his silent, animal friends in the woods.

The animation has an impressionistic warmth and the characters' faces are beautifully detailed - we often know exactly what the young boy is thinking before he says anything just from the set of his features. Dessaint also employs shadow to good effect, particularly in early stormy scenes where we catch the glint of rain the dark. Complex and immersive, funny but with a sense of danger lurking in its darker moments, this is the sort of film that children and adults will watch to the end and then want to watch again.

Reviewed on: 09 Dec 2013
Share this with others on...
Animated story of a boy who leads a wild existence deep in the forest until the day he discovers civilised life in a neighbouring village and meets a girl who lives there.

Director: Jean-Christophe Dessaint

Writer: Amandine Taffin

Starring: Voices of Jean Reno, Isabelle Carré, Claude Chabrol, Lorànt Deutsch

Year: 2012

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: France

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Spirited Away