The Present (2014)

I had a lazy blogging week last week (though not a lazy writing week – beat my dissertation writing record with 40 pages of script written in two days!) but I’ll try and make it up this week. First, let’s do a regularly scheduled short film review but, since it’s going to be a weird week anyway, I figured I would do something different. Something not Pixar. That something is an adaptation of Perfeição, a comic strip by Fabio CoaloThe Present by Jacob Frey.

Created in 2014, The Present starts off with a seemingly typical teenage boy playing on his x-box, blinds down, eyes on the screen, ignoring the darkness. His mum arrives home, puts a cardboard box in front of him, and tries to encourage him to switch off the tv. The phone rings and, as she leaves to answer it, she tells him to at least open her present to him. Curiosity piqued, he does so, and is momentarily joyful at the cute puppy that pops out. Then he notices its legs, or, more specifically, the missing front paw hidden among otherwise healthy limbs. The boy shoves the puppy away angrily and returns to gaming. The fallen puppy remains cute and joyful, spotting a ball hidden under a desk. It starts to play and tries to get him to throw the ball, undeterred by its missing foreleg or the boy’s attitude. Eventually, the boy gives in to the cute and struggles upright to take the dog outside. As he walks out, puppy by his side, ball in his pocket, and crutches tucked under his arms, you see that he is also missing a leg. Just like the puppy.

So I spent some time scouring the internet for more information about this film, as people tend to do when they fall in love, and it has won a bucket-load of awards. This is made even more impressive by the fact that it was fully animated and directed by Jacob Frey as his thesis project. You know, I was proud of my dissertation but this just blows it out the water. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t cry at films. I don’t tend to cry in general (what can I say, I’m heartless). The Present got me close though. You start off thinking the boy is just an utter douchebag and that it’s going to be a film about youths and their gaming ways and then… It’s completely different. The moment he struggles to his feet and you see him standing next to the puppy! Like all of my favourite shorts, it’s simplicity done effectively. I love it.

The animation style of The Present is reminiscent of early Pixar, particularly some of the more stylised pieces they produce. For someone at the beginning of their career, it is phenomenal. The depth and shading given to the background and the life-like texture of materials and hair… And I love the fact that the backgrounds aren’t left basic and boring. You see that in a lot of animations (including some Pixar films) where the setting loses some of it’s realness because there’s no clutter, nothing to give life to the surroundings. Not so in The Present – pretty much every shot has something that makes you feel like it could really be someone’s home. The only failing in the animation is the humans – they lack the depth and shading to give them any comparatively life-like feel – but this can easily be forgiven. Even Pixar struggles with people.

I love so much about The Present. The pacing, the narrative, the backgrounds… I love it even if it does make my icy heart melt a little.

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