Released: 29th November (2019)
Seen: 1st February
Netflix really has been trying hard to push some good high-end properties lately, which is a nice change from what was scarily becoming a pattern that would leave me screaming “Why did you pay money for this?”. Partially they do this because they know that other services are popping up that’ll offer high-end products that they will inevitably need to compete with and the best way to prove that is to own properties that will get them Oscar nominations. They don’t even need to win, they just need the nomination. You can tell their attempt has worked pretty well since this year Netflix has almost a half dozen films nominated for some award. Best Animated Feature contained two of those nominations, the first being for Klaus and the second for this weird little gem that’s… well, it’s different, I’ll give it that much.
I Lost My Body is about a severed hand that gains sentience and tries to go off and find the body that it was once attached to. Basically, it’s the origin story of Thing from The Addams Family done with hand-drawn animation. The story of the hand trying to find its way back home is intercut with flashbacks to the owner when he still had a hand and his strange attempted flirtation with a woman who he once delivered pizzas to. Cutting back and forth we slowly get more and more insight into the life of this young man and see the hand fight pigeons and mice like it was nothing. It’s a strange little story… for the most part.
I will admit that I’d heard a little about this one, that it was a strange and unique story and when we’re talking about the parts where we learn what Thing was doing before Gomez decided to hire him on, that’s accurate. However, the stuff involving the main character, here named Naoufel (Dev Patel), feels almost like it’s a textbook rom-com from the 90s. The plot almost perfectly lines up with tropes that could describe a hundred other movies. Guy hears the voice of a woman who sounds hot, guy finds out where she works, adorable stalking montage followed by ‘accidental’ meeting and then courtship. It’s a tale as old as time and we’ve now really started to see that there’s something a tiny bit messed up with stories involving… you know, literally stalking a woman you’ve never met so you can ask her out on a date. Spoilers, that’s not romantic, it’s kind of creepy and it’s been done before quite a lot. Those portions of the film, while visually interesting, are probably the parts where I came closes to tuning out.
I’d be on the verge of dismissing the film as nothing more than some, admittedly, nice visuals when all of a sudden I was back at the story of the severed hand that was making its way back to the man who it had once belonged to. That’s the most interesting part of the film, just watching as this sentient hand slowly travels around in a dark imitation of Baby’s Day Out where it constantly gets into random hijinks and only barely escapes. The sequences with the hand are easily the best animated, the funniest and the darkest elements of the entire film. It goes from a great comedic sequence where it’s trying to hide from a person by climbing up the ribcage of a skeleton (in context, it’s pretty funny) to a dark shocking scene where it tries to use a pigeon to get from one place to another, only to be attacked by the bird and have to break its neck. It’s a sharp contrast that makes it compelling… and then we cut back to the Whiny McLoser the story is meant to be about.
Even though I don’t like the main character (who is literally every entitled douchebag who ever thought he was owed a woman’s affection because he was mildly polite to her once), it’s hard to deny that even his elements of the film are wonderfully animated. Every image is genuinely stunning and fluid, there’s a great sense of motion and there are moments of pure brilliance in the way the medium is used. I don’t know how one would to a real-life version of a hand getting into a fight with a pack of rats, but with this style of animation, it’s glorious, shocking, scary and insane. Even little interactions between characters are really quite nice since every shot is framed beautifully and the character designs are engaging and unique. I love how this film looks, I just don’t always like what this film does.
I Lost My Body is original in the parts that’re why it’s getting known, but for the most part, it’s a well-animated 90s rom-com with a strange series of insert shots. It’s not without some charm, I dare say the strangeness of opening on a severed hand trying to figure out how to walk is enough to disarm the audience into forgiving the parts that aren’t quite as interesting, but it’s still mostly just another romance story where a woman is stalked by a guy who heard her voice once and decided that meant he was entitled to a moment of her time and the film barely wants to address how messed up that is. Maybe if the film had been willing to actually call him out on being a creep (because, spoilers, he loses his hand for something completely unrelated to the creep factor) then I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I did but as it is, I have to admit I just don’t get the hype on this one. It’s fine, I’m not shocked that it’s an Oscar nominee and I’m not shocked that people like it, but I doubt it’s something I’d want to watch again.