Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart comes from a studio across the pond and as a result, is different than anything you’ve seen before. While far from perfect, it’s dark, surreal, but overall quite enjoyable.
The Film ✮✮✮
In Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, a young woman gives birth to a child on the coldest day ever. As a result, the baby’s heart freezes solid and stop beating. The midwife, being quite inventive, quickly replaces the heart with a cuckoo-clock, which allows little Jack to live. But with the new heart come new rules: he must not become too angry or excited and, especially, he must never fall in love because the rise of emotions will cause his heart to stop. One day when he is 10 years old, he’s finally allowed to go explore the outside world and immediately calls captive for a young street performer, Miss Acacia, which nearly killls him. Jack must learn to win her heart, while keeping his.
The music, composed entirely by the rock band Dionysos, is delightful. The film was inspired by an album of the band’s and so it makes sense that the music and score are so integral to Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. The songs have a modern, indie vibe to them and are quite enjoyable. Although at times, they don’t seem to fit the situation.
The animation, at first glance seems like stop-motion, but rather is computer animated. It’s not the highest quality compared to some of the larger studios, but is still quite nice and pretty to look at. The characters’ facial expressions are somewhat limited, but overall the staccato movements create interesting visuals. On top of that, the film’s overall design is soft, steampunk-esque and very stylized, which is a breath of fresh air visually and differentiate this film from its contemporaries.
The film is very experimental, at times exploring the not-so-literal. There are times when Jack has daydreams, which help to express Jack’s emotional state whenever his senses are heightened. For example, there are times when he imagines being chased down a never-ending tunnel or Miss Acacia dancing through the cogs of his heart.
The film also explores the themes of love, bullying, abandonment, unregulated labor and death. There is a lot to take in and the subject matter may not be the most appropriate for young children, as there are some frightening scenes (Jack the Ripper even oddly makes an appearance). But strictly for adults, I think they will find this film entertaining, enjoyable and up to their level.
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is worth because it explores different ideas that normally aren’t seen in North American animation. It’s not the best film and has the strongest plot, but still takes risks that are admirable and worth the look.
Bonus Features ✮✮
The film is a bit light on bonus features, but there are still a few there that are worth checking out. They are all in French with English subtitles.
The first are Character Vignettes of each of the main characters. Here the filmmakers break down the characters and give a little behind-the-scenes insight about them. We get to see concept art and other development pieces during this.
The final bonus feature is called From Book to Screen, which is your typical making-of featurette. It’s pretty short, so doesn’t dive too deep into the making of the film, but you do get some insight about the adaptation of the story and incorporating Dionysos’ songs into the final picture.
I was pleasantly surprised and engaged while watching Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. It’s quirky, surreal and great to look at. It’s a shame it didn’t get a wider US theatrical release, but then again, I can see how distributors would be wary of US audiences warming up to Jack and his frozen heart. But having seen the film and enjoyed what I say, I would definitely say check this one out.