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CANNES 2024 Un Certain Regard

Review: Flow


- CANNES 2024: Gints Zilbalodis’ endearing animated tale, about a black cat in the aftermath of a catastrophic flood, is the hidden gem of this year’s Cannes Film Festival

Review: Flow

After Laila Pakalnina’s drama The Shoe, it took more than 25 years for Latvia to secure another spot in the Cannes Film Festival’s official selection. This long wait has finally been rewarded thanks to Gints Zilbalodis’ sophomore feature, Flow [+see also:
interview: Gints Zilbalodis
film profile
, premiering in the Un Certain Regard strand of the French gathering.

The story of this beautiful animated picture, penned by the helmer together with talented filmmaker Matīss Kaža, is as simple as it is engaging. The world seems to be coming to an end – or, at least, we realise that mankind and civilisation have been wiped out. The vestiges of a human presence are still visible, but animals and nature are ruling our planet again. In the aftermath of a great flood, we follow a cute black cat – fearful yet charismatic and loveable – who finds refuge on a boat populated by various species. Escaping catastrophe, the unlikely group of animals team up and embark on a long journey navigating mystical, submerged landscapes and facing the dangers of adapting to this new world.

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At first glance, one might sense some vibes that loosely echo Stray, an adventure game produced by Annapurna Interactive and released last year, and rightly so. In it, a stray cat moves around a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. However, in Flow, there are no robots, there’s little melancholia, and the whole colour palette is much brighter – not to mention more hopeful – than the omnipresent “doom and gloom” atmosphere typical of the Annapurna game.

That being said, the pleasant visual look doesn’t imply the presence of a sugar-coated narrative; on the contrary, Flow is a highly emotional and engrossing experience lacking dialogue, but enriched by conflicts and clashes. Most of these are prompted by the animals’ struggles as they follow their instincts and adopt behaviours that may resemble, at least in part, human nature.

Besides, our black cat also goes through an interesting narrative arc, changing his relationship with the world through his newfound friends. It’s something that emerges naturally, and it’s certainly no easy task to show this kind of character development in a story lacking dialogue.

Moreover, the soundscape feels real and compelling in every minute detail (from the ambient sound to the lovely cat purrs and meows); the score is immersive and majestic. Aesthetically speaking, the picture is a feast for the eyes, and it makes the most of a big-screen experience. And, of course, the animation is fluid and well crafted.

Without mincing words, Flow is the real true hidden gem of this year’s Cannes. It’s a tale focusing on animals, yet is so relatable and “human” that it’s touching and heart-warming, and it tugs at the heartstrings, for both children and adults alike. It has the potential to sell worldwide, perhaps marking the start of a brand-new chapter for European animation.

Flow is a European co-production led by Dream Well Studio (Latvia), Sacrebleu Productions (France) and Take Five (Belgium). Charades is selling the picture internationally.

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