Sometimes life is a little boring, maybe a little miserable and a touch lonely. If only we could just open a door and find a better version of life on the other side. You wouldn’t want to come back. Coraline takes this very concept of a better life behind the door, but sometimes better is just what you see on the surface…
Coraline has moved house to the middle of nowhere it seems and she isn’t happy. Her friends are far and gone, the parents don’t have time to play and the locals are a rather odd bunch. All she can do is wander around and make the most of this dusty old house, with her dusty old life. Till she finds the hidden door that is. Beyond the door is a gateway to the other version of this place and there she meets a different version of each character. A better version. With the new dreamy life moving into focus, Coraline doesn’t just want to leave. But the buttons on the other characters eyes suggest there are dark secrets hidden in this place. Dark secrets which quickly leave to a desperate escape of this demented place. The story is one magical ride, stuffed full of as much dark material as you’d expect from the rather brilliant writer Neil Gaiman. I haven’t read the source material, but this is a stunning film in its own right.
The film looks like the dreams we can only hope to imagine. A stop motion world of bizarre looking characters and fantasy woods and houses. The way Coraline moves is full of life, like a puppet brought to life. The way the fabrics ripple and the characters mouths move in a stilted way is mesmerising. Stop motion has this organic, dreamlike feel which more films should be doing. While the stop motion effects lead to slightly stiff actions, these movements are what make stop motion such a joy to watch. Cgi shouldn’t be the only way to bring forth children’s imaginations, though perhaps stop motion is a little bit too much hard work for those to deal with. But as I gaped in awe at the flourishing gardens and over exaggerated characters, I was brought back to the love I found in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is an art form rather than a simple way of making a quick buck film.
The characters in this world are all bright and bold. Coraline is adorable, her parents have that ugly work trodden appearance and the neighbours are bloated and past their primes. Each carry unique and unsettling stories. Mr. Bobinsky, the Russian acrobat, dreams of having his mice perform a great show. Actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible just like to read fortunes and stuff their pets and dress them in angel wings. Then the grandson who brings Coraline into the unknown, Wyborn, talks too much. To see their alter egos in the better world is worth sticking around for and it is such a shame the film has to end. I could have easily spend hours in the company of this delightful cast.
The film while telling a childlike tale of finding a fantastic world, the darkness creeps in and can be actually a little scary at times. The niceness of all the characters in this other place is already unsettling, but the button eyes, animated performances and magic of the world is certainly disturbing. The film quickly turns into a colourful nightmare, full of mysteries, action and dark themes lying around. To find fault in the film would be that it may upset the target audience, but for the older viewer there is only the thought of relishing each twisted moment.
Coraline has it all. It doesn’t rely on cheap gags, cgi and lukewarm threat. It really works our minds and perceptions, bringing forth a spectacular nightmare that waking up from is a painful thought. Should be remembered for years to come, probably will be lost under behind that door for not being a Tim Burton creation. But… it’s better than that.