I Lost My Body (2019)
director: jeremy clapin | runtime: 1h 21mins | drama, fantasy | language: French, english
Orphaned Naoufel (Dev Patel/Hakim Farris) finds himself with a new lease on life when he has a brief but moving conversation with Gabrielle (Ali Shawkat/Victoire Du Bois) over her intercom. Meanwhile, a severed hand travels the city of Paris to return to it’s body.
Netflix’s newest animation venture symbolically plays from start to finish. Ripe with wonderful animation and a beautiful score from Dan Levy, each time-jumping scene is graciously delivered with meaning and style. Fluctuating between three distinct timelines, Naoufel’s romantic troubles with the girl in the intercom, his childhood wonder and trauma so distinctly animated to sketch drawing, and then the star of the show – the dismembered hand who’s travel across Paris is one of hardship and endurance.
For the majority of the film there is an immediate connect between all stories, the early story is full of child-like wonder, making a fly seem like an integral part to the experience a young Naoufel is having. This immediately contrasts his time as a young adult where he spends his life in a pit of misery, delivering pizza (late), and then going home to a disconnected home with a foster parent and his over-zealous brother. But the beauty in the connection between the hand and the rest of the stories is there is no immediate attachment, we know who’s hand it is thanks to wonderful opening scene, but we don’t know how or why this hand is alive, or where it’s going. Even if you don’t immediately get the symbolism you’ll be overwhelmed by intrigue as this hand navigates the harshness, and the beauty, of a busy Paris.
Mostly thanks to terrific storytelling and a score that’s probably the best you’ll hear all year, the hand’s journey simultaneously anchors the metaphoric flow of the film, but also keeps the entertainment afloat in the more narratively-cliched moments. The severed hand deals with subway rats, strangles a pigeon, attempts to cross a motorway with an umbrella all to reach it’s destination. But the metaphor is what’s important here. In a world that has continually been taking things away from our main character, both the romance and the severed hand act as Naoufel’s redemptive attempts to make himself happy again and regain something that felt long-gone. It’s beautifully paced, and when it comes to the ending there is a feeling of optimism that’s overpowered by a cloud of pessimism – being unable to regain anything from a world that loves to take.
The hand seems like a strange addition when the movie is in full-flow, and it very well might not have worked if it wasn’t for Clapin’s subtly working perpetually. Every frame sees a hand in focus, whether it be with woodwork, eating pizza, reading a book, the focus is there. This surprisingly reinforces the severed hand even more, showing how anatomically essential it is, and in the early childhood scenes we see just how quintessential they are to our world-discovery. As a young Naoufel is spinning a globe, trying to catch a fly or recording his parents talking, every scene is finger-focused which creates an essence for the films tone and the loss that he feels in his adulthood.
But as already stated the best moments do act as a support beam rather just consistent flare. The film finds most of it’s flaws in it’s love story, that despite having a deep-rooted romanticism, can’t help falling into one big cliche. A strong intercom conversation turns into a stalker-esque story in which Naoufel becomes close to Gabrielle but never revealing his identity as the ‘pizza boy’ at the other end of the intercom – which leads to a very familiar conflict between the two. Having said that, the moments between the two are genuine, and despite having such style in the animation these scenes are firmly grounded thanks to great character work and once again accompanied by a winning score.
Netflix have released this film in both English and French, and while there isn’t really a preference, you do feel the poetic nature of the words would be better delivered by the smoothness of the French language. Having said that there is no real way for this film to suffer, and despite having cliches in it’s romance the symbolism coursing through the films narrative is complex and deep-rooted. Clapin’s exquisite touch, Dan Levy’s heavy score and Guillaume Laurant’s (writer of Amelie ) romantic influence just about push this to one of the strongest animations in a long time. It’s a horrifying reminder that in an unforgiving world, despite our best efforts, you can’t regain what it’s already taken from you.