Movie review

Movie review: 'The Red Turtle'

In Studio Ghibli’s film, a shipwreck survivor finds salvation in the strangest place


A shipwreck survivor washes up to the shore of a desert island. He finds fresh water and coconuts to eat. Surveying the small island, he makes note of a grove of bamboo, which he will use later to build a raft .He is alone, but has a strong will to live. But, when he sets his small raft upon the waves, what he encounters is the beginning of something strange, mysterious and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Questions posed in “The Red Turtle” seem rooted in the mythology of the sea or maybe even spiritual visions of an afterlife, but don’t look for easy answers or even a grand exposition that carefully arranges everything into a neat little package.

It moves across the screen with great deliberation, like a tortoise making its way across a vast desert of sand on its way to the sea. So slowly does the plot unfold, an audience might figure it’s going nowhere. But, if you pay attention to the smallest things, what ultimately happens might not be a big surprise.

As it is, tears may flow as understanding dawns.

Dutch director Michael Dudok de Wit (“Father and Daughter”) uses no dialogue in this film other than occasional grunts, calls and shouts. So, everything is told visually. What we see are often large expanses of landscape and ocean, with the man or other figures planted small and alone within their midst.

At one point near the beginning, the man is seen exploring the island and inadvertently falls into a crevice in the rocks. He falls into a pool of water from the ocean. There is nothing to grasp. But, because he decides to swim down and see if there is an underwater opening, he does not drown. It is a fateful moment because as he swims to the surface on the other side, he is watched by some red turtles.

Later, he builds the previously mentioned raft, complete with a sail made from bamboo leaves. He makes his way into the sea only to have something powerful come up from the ocean bottom and destroy his raft. He tries again later on, only to have the same thing happen. He tries yet again, this time determined to see what it is. It turns out to be a large red turtle.

Back on shore, the man, angry and upset at his fate, attacks the turtle with a stick and flips it over on its back. Later, the creature dies and its shell cracks, but to the man’s great surprise, a human woman appears.

Because this film is animated, the experience is almost dreamlike. One feels like we’re watching an intangible vision come alive. As such, we don’t feel tied to the same rules as reality. What we see is only what the director wants us to see.

This film is highly recommended.

“The Red Turtle” is rated PG for some thematic elements and peril.

It is showing at 2 p.m. Sunday (April 16) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (April 17-19). Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts office at (575) 758-2052 or visit

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials.

Going in Style

MPAA rating: PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material

Mitchell Storyteller 7

This is a reboot of the 1979 movie that was directed by Martin Brest and featured George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg.

Three seniors — this time played by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Santa Fe’s Alan Arkin — who are living Social Security check to check and even reduced to eating dog food at times, decide they have had enough. So, they plan to rob a bank. Problem is, they don’t even know how to handle a gun.

The film is a social commentary directed by Zach Braff on growing old in America and what we are sometimes driven to do due to circumstances.

Co-stars include Ann-Margaret, Joey King, John Ortiz, Christopher Lloyd, Kenan Thompson and Matt Dillon.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

Smurfs: The Lost Village

MPAA rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor

Mitchell Storyteller 7

In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) and her best friends – Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) – on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) does. Embarking on a roller-coaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history.

Director Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2” and “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarrón”) works from a script by Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon based on characters by Peyo. Incidentally, Peyo was born June 25, 1928, in Brussels, Belgium, as Pierre Culliford. He was a writer and director, known for creating the Smurfs characters. He died Dec. 24, 1992, in Brussels.

Additional voice talent includes Ariel Winter, Michelle Rodríguez, Julia Roberts, Mandy Patinkin, plus Gordon Ramsay.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit