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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

The man washes up on the shore of a small but beautiful isle. The disaster that landed him here is past. The only thing to do now is survive and move forward.

That, however, is no small goal.

It's not that the island doesn't have suitable resources for survival. There's fruit growing on the trees and bushes, fish for spearing, a pool of fresh water, a sweeping forest of bamboo for shelter and for fire. But … the man is alone.

So very alone.

And getting off this very lonely island seems almost impossible. Every time he tries to build a raft and sail away, he's thwarted. Not by stuff of the sea like jagged coral reefs or pounding waves. No, the agent of the man's enforced stay on the island takes the form of a mysterious and incredibly large red turtle. The creature smashes raft after raft, no matter how tight the binding or how thick the layers of bamboo. Each time, the man can only swim back to shore.

And scream in frustration.

Then one day, after weeks of depression and emotional anguish, the man sees the red turtle crawling up on the shore of this, his isle of torment. Its large flippers flailing in the sand, the sea creature slowly drags its girth inland. Can it be? The man happens to see the red beast from the peak of a nearby hill and quickly dives screaming into the surrounding woods.

With each running step his anger grows, his fists clench, his teeth grit. He'll show this raft-destroyer what it's like to be attacked. He'll have his revenge. He'll kill this thing and be done with it.

What the man doesn't realize as he picks up a bamboo pole and swings it overhead, however, is that this is no mere turtle. This is no simple and brainless destroyer.

No, this turtle is actually an answer to the man's howls of loneliness.

Positive Elements

The man longs for companionship and he finds it through a mysterious woman who appears on the island. We watch as they work together, draw close and eventually have a child together. Their love and devotion to their son and to each other is obvious.

Spiritual Content

[Spoiler Warning] At one point, the seemingly dead turtle transforms into a living woman. This magical event is never explained. In fact, it could be interpreted as the delusions of a broken mind, since the man also sees some hallucinations beforehand. In this case, though, the woman stays with him until the day he dies, then transforms back into the turtle and swims away.

Sexual Content

The woman can be seen from the waist up in the surf with no clothes, but her long red hair completely covers her chest. Elsewhere, the man and the woman touch hands and embrace. Later, we see that they've had a baby boy.

Violent Content

The man is buffeted about in the waves of the surf when we first see him as he struggles to keep from drowning.

After the turtle keeps breaking up his rafts, the man identifies this large sea creature as his chief tormentor. He angrily attacks it when it crawls up on the sandy beach, hitting the turtle in the head with a piece of wood and flipping it on its back to die in the sun. (He later regrets his actions and tries to help the dehydrated reptile recover.)

The couple's young boy slips off a cliff and falls into a pool of waters far below. A tsunami also strikes the small island, tearing up large swaths of vegetation and pummeling the isle's three inhabitants, nearly drowning one of them. The man throws up after seeing the dead corpse of a sea lion on the beach.

Crude or Profane Language


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Other Negative Elements


The Red Turtle, created by Dutch writer and director Michael Dudok de Wit, won a special jury prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It's also a 2017 Academy Award-nominated animated feature film. Despite those mainstream accolades, however, this abstract, dialogue-free story nimbly defies easy interpretation.

Some critics have suggested that it's a fairy tale about loss, while others have called it a fantasy about mankind's desire to find meaning. Someone even suggested it's a pro-environmental meditation on our alienation from nature. And if you have a mind to embrace those diverse assessments, you can find all of them in this minimalist-but-lush, hand-drawn motion picture.

Of course, I have my own filter. The Red Turtle is a simple parable about the basic longings we all share: the desire to find companionship and love, fulfillment and family. It's a slow, thoughtful movie that muses—through its light coating of quasi-spiritual fantasy—over the beginnings, struggles, victories and endings of life.

As such, this is not an animated movie for kids, really: It will likely bore younger viewers to tears. But it will leave more mature movie lovers—those with a bit of sandy grit in their shoes and a few years of sun on their brow—thinking closely about their own life and longings.

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Michael Dudok de Wit ( )


Sony Pictures Classics



Record Label



In Theaters

January 20, 2017

On Video

May 2, 2017

Year Published



Bob Hoose

Content Caution

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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