Probably my greatest frustration with the current film landscape is the way theater screenings are distributed. So many great films are underseen because moviegoers simply do not have access to them. Well, if you want to know a film worthy of requesting your local theater to screen, it is April and the Extraordinary World. This journey into a steampunk fantasy world rivals Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo. In fact, I think it is even better.
The main thing I loved about this movie is that it is completely different than anything I have ever seen before. The story is set in an alternative version of 1941, Paris, France where Napoleon V reigns and for the last 70 years, scientists have been disappearing, along with their subsequent inventions. This means it is a world without electricity or anything beyond the power of steam.
A girl named April has parents who are experimenting with a serum that will cause matter to regrow and repair. The government obviously wants to weaponize this serum and use it to create the invincible soldier. When April is little, her parents are chased and eventually disappear—leaving her to continue experimenting with the serum on her own.
Alone with her talking cat Darwin (another response of the serum is talking animals), April plows ahead and meets a young man named Julius. April’s Grandfather Pops also becomes involved in the story, and a police officer named Pizoni doggedly hunts her down.
Produced by some of the same team that brought us Persepolis, directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci have created a beautifully animated film. The 2D traditional animation is, of course, gorgeous, but the sketchy, dark outlines and uses of colors like pink, red, and black are captivating and different.
The characters are also complex, which makes it unpredictable. For example, April is not a saint. She steals repeatedly throughout the film and her father, mother, Julius, and Pops all make mistakes and grow from them. The villain might throw a few people off because it is very strange but I liked it. To me, it worked within the story they were trying to tell.
Everything about the film just kept me guessing throughout which was so refreshing. The best comparison I can make with it is Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. It’s more grounded than that but similar in tone, feel, and lead characters.
April and the Extraordinary World is described as “an animated fantasy thriller” and it does have a lot of tension you’d expect with a thriller. However, it also has humor particularly from Darwin the cat. It also has a real nice heart to it, and I found myself getting emotional more than once. You can sense April’s loneliness, and the choices characters have to make are often tough.
The music by Valentin Hadjadj is excellent, and the sound mixing drew me into the story. I saw it in French with subtitles, but the English cast includes Susan Sarandon, Paul Giamatti, JK Simmons, and Tony Hale. I’ve heard they do a great job with the dubbing.
April and the Extraordinary World is released by GKIDS slowly so there’s still time to request it at a theater near you. I loved it, and I think it is a film that will improve with each viewing. It’s just that rich and special. So if you are looking for something different and beautifully executed, check out April and the Extraordinary World.
What do you think? Does it look like something that would intrigue you? Let me know what you think if you get a chance to see it.
Edited by: Kelly Conley