Film Review: WINDOW HORSES (Canada 2016) ***1/2

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window_horses.jpgDirector: Ann Marie Fleming
Writers: Ann Marie Fleming (screenplay), Maryam Najafi (Cultural Script Consultant)
Stars: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ellen Page, Sandra Oh

Review by Gilbert Seah

WINDOW HORSES is an animated film about poetry. And one about a protagonist travelling to a poetry conference in the city of Shiraz in Iran. The subject would be enough to scare away audiences. But one of the best films last year was about a bus driver poet entitled PATERSON with Adam Driver, a tremendously moving film. So WINDOW HORSES, another film about poets, is a film that should be given a chance – for it is in its own terms, an equally awesome film – original, cute and with eye-catching animation.

I met writer/director Ann Marie Fleming last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. Humble, quiet and shy, I had heard that she had a film playing called WINDOW HORSES. I was dead curious what her animated movie would be like, after a fellow critic praised her film. Fleming is of mixed race, like her film’s protagonist.

The film begins with a horse observed through a window. The person at the window is young 20-something poet wannabe Rosie Ming (voice of Emmy Winner Sandra Oh) of mixed Chinese/Persian parents) who lives with her loving grandparents (drawn to look especially Chinese) in Vancouver, Canada. Rose publishes her own poems in book called “My Eye Full” by a poet who has never been to Paris.

One thing that stands out about WINDOW HORSES is its charm. The charm is ever present from the film’s characters to the stories right down to the details in the animation. The film is inherently funny with keen observations to family relationships, growing-up, the artistic scene and a whole lot of other issues.

Sandra Oh, who serves as the film’s executive producer lends her talent as the voice (immediately recognizable) of Rosie. Oh has been friends with Fleming for over 20 years and she agreed to do the voice despite her very busy schedule. Besides Oh, the film is filled with other talents such as other Canadian actors Don McKellar (as the German poet) and Ellen Page as Rosie’s funny chatty friend. But the best is old veteran actress, Nancy Kwan (of the Roger and Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG and LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING) as the voice of Rosie’s grandmother.

Fleming’s animation is not super stupendous, but it is colourful (her favourite colour appears to be pink), original, eye-catching and different. While her characters are etched with proper limbs, she give Rosie stick arms and legs. She even pokes fun at her own animation with a watch she wears dangling from her (stick) wrist.

Fleming’s film is also deep in its subject matter. Fleming knows her material and it is clear form her film that she has done sufficient research on Iran and on her poetry. One wonders if the story of her protagonist is biographical.

WINDOW HORSES is a celebration of different cultures, of art, tolerance and the wonders of life. Fleming is clearly an important emerging talent in cinema.



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