Funan is a new French animated film co-written and directed by Denis Do. Set in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge revolution, the movie tells the story of a young mother’s quest to survive and find her son after her family is torn apart by the regime. It debuted at the 2018 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, where it won the top prize.
This film’s story is undeniably very compelling and unexpected for an animated movie. Much like the Studio Ghibli classic Grave of the Fireflies, Funan uses animation in an unorthodox way to present an interesting perspective on these events that are so horrifying. The Khmer Rouge revolution is not among the most common topics of historical discussion, but it nonetheless serves as an effective backdrop to tell this touching story of humanity.
The main reason that the film ends up being so emotionally affecting is that the characters are extremely well-developed. The first twenty or so minutes of the movie is spent establishing the family dynamic so that when it is broken, we feel immediate sympathy for the characters and the situation in which they find themselves. On an individual level, many of the characters are likable, but as a family unit, they are intensely compelling.
From beginning to end, the film is packed with emotion. It is depressing to think that things like this actually happened to people, but it is also important to remember so that we don’t end up repeating history. This is definitely an emotionally draining movie to watch, but it is also very well-made and rewarding. Something to note is that even though this is animated and distributed by a company called GKids, this probably isn’t something to watch with young kids because of its dark subject matter.
Despite the fact that the film is consistently hard to watch, it is also thoroughly captivating. It is easy to get invested in the story emotionally, and once you do, the runtime of less than an hour and a half will fly by. Younger audiences may find the movie to be boring (especially since they’ll have to read subtitles), but the film really isn’t for them, anyway.
The animation in the movie is truly impressive, particularly the design of the characters. The animation style is a relatively conventional 2D format, but done to an excellent degree. With the animation of the characters, so much emotion is able to be conveyed, which, along with some very good and nuanced voice performances, allows the film to resonate even further.
Furthermore, the other visuals in the movie are also beautiful. Just as much detail is put into the creation of the settings as is put in the characters. The film will transport you back in time and immerse you in its world because of the amount of hard work the filmmakers put into the backgrounds. This creates a juxtaposition between the beauty of the natural world and the horrors that we are seeing committed by mankind.
Overall, Funan was an extremely impressive animated movie. Packed with emotion and beautiful animation, this is a film that will hopefully be in the conversation for Best Animated Film awards come the end of the year.
Funan is now playing in theaters.