The French animated fantasy drama “I Lost My Body” is one of the quirkiest features to come out of 2019. It’s consists of two fascinating halves that make up an interesting but not quite cohesive whole. It’s a movie that not only marches to its own beat but demands that viewers embrace it on its own terms. While I found that to be easier said than done, I can’t help but commend it for sticking to its visions and convictions.
“I Lost My Body” received a strong reception after screening at the Cannes Film Festival and was picked up by Netflix. It’s an adaptation of Guillaume Laurant’s novel “Happy Hand” that sees director Jérémy Clapin (who co-write the screenplay with Laurant) taking two narratives which seem unrelated on the surface but are clearly working their way together. It makes for one oddly braided story.
On one hand (dopey pun intended) this is a macabre adventure tale where a …ahem…severed hand ventures across a treacherous Parisian district in an attempt to reconnect (please forgive me) with its body. The movie begins with the hand breaking out of a medical lab refrigerator. It takes a second to shake off the wackiness of the idea, but soon we’re caught up in this peculiar ‘journey home‘ storyline. Along the way the hands faces numerous challenges and perils: a protective mother pigeon, subway rats, a busy freeway among other things.
On the other hand we get the story of Naoufel (voiced by Hakim Faris), a teenager who has had a rough go. Through thoughtfully crafted flashbacks we learn that Naoufel lost his parents at a young age. He was sent to live with his apathetic uncle and bully of a cousin in Paris. Lost and clinging to his painful past, Naoufel has an encounter that gives him hope. While delivering pizza to an apartment complex he strikes up a conversation with Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois) over an intercom. It gives Naoufel a spark of life and he sets out to learn more about her.
As we watch the two storylines which are inevitably bound to intersect, one question in constantly in your mind. How did Naoufel lose his hand. One narrative heads towards it while the other represents present day. It’s undeniably original and engaging. The problem is one is more interesting than the other. In many of Naoufel’s scenes I often found myself wondering about the hand? How far had it come? Was it in danger? This is due to Clapin filling the hand’s journey with a surprising amount of tension while some scenes with Naoufel are a bit more uneven.
Reoccurring motifs and images tease deeper meanings that (I assume) are meant to be better understood as the film reaches its end. But the ambiguous finish makes it a challenge mainly because the story never got its hooks deep enough in me to encourage much afterthought. Yet despite the difficulty in uncovering answers, “I Lost My Body” still manages to be an endearing meditation on physical and emotional displacement, childhood loss, and loneliness wrapped up in a beautiful animated style.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS