“Marona’s Fantastic Tale” was actually one of the 32 eligible contenders for a 2019 Best Animated Feature Academy Award nomination. But last year was very competitive and “Marona” was overlooked. The GKIDS release comes out digitally/online on June 12. That’s when this creatively elaborate, innovative and deeply moving film will finally get its day.
Romanian director Anca Damian begins her unique tale of a dog’s life… with a death — of the title character. With her human owner comforting her after she’s struck by a car, Marona, as narrator, invites us along as she looks back at her time on earth. This is the first of many striking visual sequences in “MFT”, as cars rush by on both sides of the calm, collected dying pooch.
French actress Lizzie Brochere handles the narration (accompanied by English subtitles). The script, written by the director’s son, Anghel Damian is beautifully constructed, filled with honest observations and reflections on the joys and disappointments of life and family — from a canine’s perspective.
But it’s the wildly ambitious animation that makes “Marona” a truly special achievement. Each section, defined by Marona’s series of owners, has its own, distinct look. There are mind-blowing visuals and abstract, flowing characters. All play key roles in the dog’s bittersweet story.
On a few occasions the animation is so hypnotic it threaten to take you out of the moment. But just go along for the ride. Brochere’s soothing, hypnotic voice always brings you back.
In the final act, “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” gets spiritual, exploring contrasts between heaven and earth. Other recent pup pictures, including “A Dog’s Purpose” and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” also went down this path. But Marona’s keen insights (along with her heart-shaped nose) make this the deepest and most emotional entry in the “my life as a dog” category.
The Damians have succeeded in creating a film that’s “Fantastical” in every way. It’s the pick of the litter.
LCJ GRADE: A-
Running Time: 91 min.