Review: ‘Me And My Moulton’

It is easy to see why Torill Kove’s latest short film, “Me and My Moulton,” won this year’s Canadian Screen Award for Best Animated Short and recently garnered an Oscar nomination. The film’s simple but colourful animations accompany what turns out to be a delightful, yet quite complex, foray into family life.

Set in Norway over the course of spring and summer in 1965, the story is told through the eyes of a 7-year-old girl who longs for everything normal – and a bicycle to share with her two sisters. As the middle child of markedly modernist architect parents, she yearns to be like those around her. The family that lives below her seems the model familial unit, complete with attentive parents, two children – one boy and one girl – a dog and a cozy home with plush wall-to-wall carpeting. Meanwhile upstairs, the girl and her two sisters are encouraged to thrive in an unconventional household, but instead spend much of their time awkwardly navigating their parents’ usual ways. Even their dinner hour is made an exercise in the avant-garde, with the girls trying to eat but spending most of their time attempting, and failing, to stay atop three-legged dining chairs.

The middle daughter is lost in a sea of envy. While her father is the only man with a moustache in the entire town, the father downstairs is clean-shaven and performs manly duties, like yard work, hunting and military service. The mother downstairs stays at home, makes after-school snacks, and shops for beautiful dresses for her daughter, while the 7-year-old’s own mother makes clothing for her and her sisters out of brightly coloured and eclectic fabrics. All of this leads the little girl to a great deal of inner struggle over the notion of what a conventional family should look and act like.

Throughout the film, Kove maintains a careful balance. She takes on challenging themes of identity, envy and the differences in the ways parents and children view the world, all while maintaining a sense of whimsy and humour. As the little girl and her sisters struggle to understand why their parents have ordered a “special” bicycle all the way from England, they are also confronted with the reality that what seems normal and perfect, often is quite the contrary.

With pitch-perfect narration by Norwegian actress Andrea Braein Hovig, the audience is invited to share the variety of emotions that are portrayed – sadness, confusion, envy, loneliness. Ultimately though, it is love that overcomes and the mature realization by our young characters that their parents’ greatest flaw is not their proclivity for the avant-garde, but rather simply that their idea of what is a great bike differs from that of their daughters. What Kove masterfully reminds us is that it is through the eyes of children that we are taught that the acts of giving and receiving are ultimately ones of love.

“Me and My Moulton” is available through VOD on the National Film Board website and iTunes Canada.

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