February 20th, 2023
MOVIE: WHEN YOU GET TO THE FOREST
STARRING: ALICIA POWER, MARCELLA CAMPOS
DIRECTED BY: ERIC POWER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
At the start of the 2022 award season, one of the talking points for director Guillermo del Toro has been to state that animation is not just a genre for children. It is a medium that is an expression of artists, storytellers, and world building that reveals great imagination. It was proven in del Toro’s version of Pinocchio that even the oldest of tales could be renewed through the wonders of animation. Picking up the baton and carrying that very sentiment is When You Get to the Forest, the newest stop-motion paper film from director Eric Power. The form of animation will be understood by those who remember the early episodes of South Park, where construction paper is moved to make characters interact, but this is much more than that. When You Get to the Forest is a gorgeous escape and a beautiful expression of a true artist at work.
It’s a relatively simple story. A woman named Dana (voiced by Alicia Power) has packed up all of her belongings, old photos, boxes of stuff, and is traveling to go camp at an old hiking trail. Through the fine details, we can notice that Dana is leaving much behind, which includes loss of family, and hoping to find herself again. When walking along the path, Dana clumsily trips off a rock and bumps her head hard, but when she comes back to her senses, she has been transported to a magical forest. She witnesses odd alien looking creatures, trees coming to life, and meets a talking cat named Lakris (Marcella Campos). What follows is spending time with Dana, adapting to her new surroundings, finding an abandoned cabin, and surviving through the seasons with her new feline friend.
From a narrative structure, Power wants us to take our time, and truly marinate in the surrounding setting. The screenplay by Andreas Petersen may sound simple, but the story is broken up in seasonal segments, allowing us to see the magic of the forest in each condition. Plus, the complexity lies in what the viewer will get out of Dana’s journey. The tone is often tranquil, with an excellent score from John Dixon, mixing a violin and country folk. Power allows When You Get to the Forest to be an experience of all the senses, from his bright colorful visuals, to music that fits perfectly to whisk us away into a fantasy.
From a comparative standpoint, the closets Power is getting to is Hayao Miyazaki films such as My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service, but ultimately this is incredibly unique. Power’s last film was a brilliant take on the zombie genre in Attack of the Demons and here he shows narrative versatility. From 2019 to now, the director has clearly honed his skills, crafting imagery that is highly detailed in the fabric of creatures, and expanding beyond what stop-motion cinema can be. When You Get to the Forest is living and breathing through the magic of paper.
It’s safe to say that there will not be another movie like When You Get to the Forest in 2023. It’s a film that does exactly what del Toro expressed in his passionate words. Although the languid pace can make the story drag in parts, it’s only out of commitment to our characters journey, something we grow along with. There’s a future of animation that looks exactly like what Eric Power has made in When You Get to the Forest. We all just need to be able to see the beauty through the trees.
WHEN YOU GET TO THE FOREST WILL BE PLAYING IN SELECT ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE THEATERS IN FEBRUARY AND MORE INFO TO FOLLOW.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady