[This is a repost of my review. The film has been nominated for a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. Be sure to also check out our interview with the film’s writer-director here.]
I Lost My Body is a tale of two movies, both of which are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. On one hand, there’s a very French tale of self-discovery and an awkward arc of healing and recovery after tragic loss. And on the other hand, there’s … well, a hand, disembodied from its previous master and now off on a dangerous adventure to reunite with its severed body. You don’t see that every day. But it’s how the two disparate stories work together that makes I Lost My Body more than just the sum of its parts.
Filmmaker Jérémy Clapin adapted Guillaume Laurant‘s novel “Happy Hand” for this animated epic, a labor of love that took him and his animation team years to pull off. The effort was well worth it. I Lost My Body became the first-ever animated film to win the Nespresso Grand Prize at Cannes and is destined for more awards fanfare. (Be sure to keep an eye out for my chat with Clapin about the film’s path to production, the sudden awards attention, and much more tomorrow.) But you don’t have to be lucky enough to attend a world-famous film festival to see it; all you need is a Netflix subscription. I Lost My Body arrives on Netflix tomorrow, Friday, November 29th; be sure to add it to your watch list here.
It should suffice to say that the best way to experience I Lost My Body is by going into it cold and going along for the ride. But since there’s so much content to consume out there, I understand why you might need a little more to go on, so I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The story concerns itself with two protagonists: There’s Naoufel (Hakim Faris), a young man who struggles with just about everything in life, from romance, to holding down a job, to dealing with a tragic loss from his past that sent him careening onto a very different path than he ever expected. And then there’s a severed hand, one that comes to life in a way that should be surreal but feels absolutely possible because of the very human emotions, actions, and reactions the hand takes on its journey back to find its body.
For my money, I happened to like the Hand’s story more than Naoufel’s; that’s where the action, the excitement, the danger, and the mystery lie. And as an animation aficionado, watching the Hand come to life on its perilous trek across the city was an absolute joy. I’ve always loved filmmakers and animators who play with a sense of scale. You get to see the action play out from the Hand’s perspective even as it tries to survive in an out-sized world. You’ll watch a thrilling escape attempt, be impressed by its ingenuity, and even fear for its life during a tussle in the rat-infested subway tunnels. But the hand experiences more than just nailbiting action and near-death battles; there are surprising moments of tenderness found here that will make you forget that you’re watching a severed hand that should have no personality or memory of its own. That’s a testament to the incredible work of the animators and storytellers behind the scenes.
But that’s not to sell Naoufel’s story short, because the two are inextricably linked. Naoufel’s tale is a tragic one, too. From a heartbreaking loss shown through a series of flashbacks peppered throughout the film, anchored by music and memories experienced by the older Naoufel of the present, it’s impossible not to feel for the young man who’s become a victim of circumstance. However, not all circumstances act to oppose him. Even in his darkest moments, the fates align to put him back on his intended path, even if he doesn’t know quite what that path is at the moment. So when a chance run-in with the mysterious Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois) gives Naoufel a new purpose in life, he’ll follow that spark wherever it takes him, for better or worse.
To say more would be to rob you of the experience of I Lost My Body. If you keep in mind that the very French style of storytelling doesn’t necessarily promise a cut-and-dry resolution, I think you’ll rather enjoy the ride from beginning to end. And even if the more introspective story isn’t your style, it’s worth a watch for the hand’s journey alone; it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Watch I Lost My Body today and be ahead of the curve for the eventual, inevitable Oscar buzz.