Minuscule – Mandibles from Far Away is a new French animated children’s film directed by Hélène Giraud and Thomas Szabo. A sequel to the acclaimed Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants, the movie follows a young ladybug that is trapped in a box to the Caribbean and its parent that follows on a rescue mission. It debuted at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and played at the 2019 Florida Film Festival.
This is a silent kids’ movie in the same style as films such as Shaun the Sheep. This form of filmmaking provides two significant benefits: the language barrier is nonexistent and the storytelling is visually-based and easy to understand for children. For the most part, the story is cute and enjoyable. There is certainly quite a bit of predictability, but that can be understood because of the movie’s younger target audience.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is that it has too many subplots. The story about the ladybugs lost in the Caribbean is compelling and exciting. The story of the ant and spider crossing the Atlantic and the romantic subplot involving the younger ladybug feel less impactful and unnecessary.
Had the movie spent less time on these side stories, the pacing could have been much more brisk and enjoyable. As is, the film could have a bit of difficulty keeping the attention of the youngest kids in the audience. Even though the story is easy to follow, the frequent jumps between characters may be off-putting. This is an inorganic form of pacing, and it is largely ineffective.
One of the more surprising elements of the movie is that it has very strong character development all-around. With silent animation, it can sometimes be a challenge to develop the characters with any level of specificity because of the lack of dialogue removing one of the main ways of expressing traits. However, this film utilizes the mannerisms of the characters to build their personalities.
The movie is also good at eliciting an emotional response. There’s no denying that the film is cute, even if you aren’t a fan of insects, and as such, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the characters when they are in peril or having an emotional moment. The ending does feel a bit contrived and unnatural, almost manipulative even, but otherwise, the movie is pretty touching.
It is on a technical level on which the film stands out the most. The movie is made with computer animation superimposed onto live-action cinematography, and the result is absolutely stunning. You will be completely awestruck by the ways in which the film combines the beauty of the natural world with the finest in animation technology.
The use of sound in the movie is quite good too. The film is accompanied by a nice and elegant score that does a great job of setting the tone. That being said, the real hero of the movie is the absolutely brilliant sound design. Since the film has no actual dialogue, the characters communicate through a series of buzzes and other sound effects. This soundscape is very creative and conveys an impressive amount of emotion.
Overall, Minuscule – Mandibles from Far Away was a very good animated kids’ movie. Although there is some disparity between the audience for which it was meant and the audience that will enjoy it, it is definitely impressive and worth a watch.
Minuscule – Mandibles from Far Away played at the 2019 Florida Film Festival.