The Red Turtle | Review

THE RED TURTLE is the latest film from Japanese artistic animation Studio Ghibli. They have made some of my all time favourite movies and everything they touch is poetic brilliance for the heart, soul and environment. THE RED TURTLE is the first animation from Studio Ghibli not directed by a Japanese director. Studio Ghibli sent London-based Dutch artist/director Michael Dudok de Wit an email with two questions: if they could distribute his short film FATHER AND DAUGHTER in Japan, and if he would make a feature film for them. Dudok de Wit replied answering the first question and saying he did not understand the second, as he was baffled and could not believe it. Ghibli’s foresight is another touch of their brilliance, if THE RED TURTLE does not win the 2017 Oscar for best animation I will eat my hat! 

In an act of Australian cinematic crime THE RED TURTLE is ONLY releasing on an incredibly limited release – the full list of Australian cinemas screening are listed at the end of the article. THE RED TURTLE is releasing Thursday 22nd September in Australia from Transmission Films, it is rated PG and runs for 80mins. I was totally pissed I missed the press screening as was away at the snow, but lucky Kernel Jack got to view and review for us all, enjoy his thoughts below………all the best……..JK.


Studio Ghibli has brought to the world many wonderful films, including the likes of MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO, PONYO, SPIRITED AWAY and many others. One of the many brilliant people involved in the creation of their films is Hayao Miyazaki, who directed a large number of their filmography and helped found the company. In 2014, he retired, but the studio lives on, and while they’re still in the midst of their “short break” from filmmaking, that hasn’t stopped them from distributing new movies, and THE RED TURTLE is one of them.


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THE RED TURTLE doesn’t have a lot to summarise when it comes to plot. It’s an 80-minute dialogue-free animated survival story, and it’s one of the best films you will see this year. We begin with a man swimming for his life in the middle of the ocean, his name and backstory completely unknown. This unnamed man finds his way to a deserted island, washed ashore and all alone, his only companions being a small handful of crabs that come and go as they please. With no help in sight, it seems he needs to find a way to get off this island.

When attempting to flee via a handmade raft, the man encounters a red turtle, and his encounter with this large, ominous turtle forces the man to return to the shores. All hope appears to be lost, but that is until a woman appears on the island, much to the man’s shock. From here, the film takes us through several key events from their lives as they attempt to survive on the island, and while certain elements of the plot have undeniably been done before, there’s really nothing else out there that I could compare this movie to. It’s able to stand confidentially on its own.


As this is, essentially, a silent film, the key component of it is the animation. And like all Studio Ghibli films, it’s a unique and aesthetically pleasing style that makes this film feel more like a work of art than a feature length movie. I mean that in the best way possible. It looks and feels hand crafted. You can see the effort that’s been put into designing the whole thing, and their work pays off. I was constantly in awe, simply stunned by just how gorgeous everything on screen was.

It’s a free spirited, flowing style that really contrasts most of the animated films we get nowadays, even when compared to other anime. Something about it just feels wholly unique and inventive, despite the style itself having been done before. I really don’t know how else to describe other than mesmerisingly beautiful, and that’s a description that can be used to describe far more than just the art style of this movie.


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THE RED TURTLE is a film about life, in more ways than one. We’re thrown into this story in the middle of the ocean, showing a single man being tossed about. To me, this opening scene felt like the birth of his character. He’s helpless, unable to talk and without a name, all of which apply to a newborn baby. And it doesn’t stop there, as the film explores the rest of his life on this island, covering all the key aspects of human existence, including but not limited to love, loss, regret and isolation.

THE RED TURTLE, to me, is a film about our journey as humans. It’s about the hardships we face and the joys we receive. It’s an adventure told from a metaphorical birth all the way up until a metaphorical death, both of which seem to be heavy themes throughout. It feels oddly personal and strangely comforting, digging deep into the personal life of all who watch it. There’s so little that actually goes on in this movie, yet it’s a film that tells so much, and ever since I watched it, I don’t think I’ve been able to stop thinking about it.


Times have certainly changed since the silent film era, as have audience members. A great deal of the general public simply aren’t interested in watching a silent film, and yet, here is THE RED TURTLE. It’s only receiving a limited release, so it’s not expecting to make millions of dollars, but that doesn’t take away from the impressiveness of what they’ve made. It’s a bold experiment, and it works. I even feel as though it’s a film that will appeal to those who aren’t interested in watching a silent film. It still feels like an authentic movie, even with zero spoken lines.

Taking away the words, in this case, allows for everything to feel a little more intimate. It allows us to get up close and personal to these characters, despite literally knowing next to nothing about them. The entire story is told through visual language, and this creates an interesting dynamic. It draws you in, every frame planned to help make the perfect story. Not one thing on screen isn’t meant to be there, and the content shown, particularly the ending, is both complex and layered. I’ve always loved the saying about how there’s a difference between a film and a movie, and if that is to be taken as fact, this is most definitely a film.


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If you’re after smart, deep and thought provoking animated filmmaking from a company that has already established itself as one of the all time greats, THE RED TURTLE is for you. It’s a complicated, bold experiment that, once you see it, you won’t be able to stop thinking about.

Never before has a film about a man lost at sea felt so oddly personal and deeply moving. Films such as CAST AWAY will always be considered a classic, and they deserve to be, but THE RED TURTLE won’t be. It will, unfortunately, be washed away in time, and this is rather saddening as it’s an adventure you need to experience at least once.



NSW: Palace Chauvel & Dendy Newtown

ACT: Dendy Canberra

QLD: Dendy Portside

VIC: Cinema Nova, Palace Como & Brighton Bay & Sun Theatre

SA: Palace Nova Eastend

TAS: State Cinema


4 and a Half Pops




When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages, and has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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