The Red Turtle parents guide

The Red Turtle Parent Review

The point of making this animation appears to be the opportunity to illustrate a quiet story in beautiful simplicity.

Overall B

This dialog-less animation follows the adventures of a man who is stranded on a deserted island. During his effort to escape the sandy shore, he bumps into a red turtle that makes it difficult for him to leave.

Violence B
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A
Substance Use A

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

Movie Review

The Red Turtle is Studio Ghibli’s first collaboration with another company, The Wild Bunch. Although the producers of the animation are Japanese and French, audiences of other nationalities will have no problem understanding this film. That’s because it contains no dialogue, other than a few guttural sounds that are the same in any language. Following the plot is just a matter of watching the images.

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The movie begins with a sea-tossed sailor trying to endure a terrible storm that is tearing his small boat apart. Eventually he is washed ashore a deserted island. Yet that only means the risk of drowning has been traded for the possibility of dying in isolation. Summoning his strength and survival skills, he looks for food and water, and then begins to build a raft out of dead trees he finds in the island’s small forest.

When it is finally ready, the man pushes the craft out into the ocean and prepares for his long journey. But his dreams are shattered when some unseen force below the waves hits his raft and manages to break it apart. Swimming back to shore, the tenacious soul starts over again. Unfortunately, his next escape attempt ends the same way. It isn’t until his third try that he discovers the source of his problem: A large red sea turtle.

The ragged man is obviously frustrated and unsure what to do next, when the unexpected happens: He finds the offending turtle on the beach. Understandably he takes out his anger on the helpless creature who is flipped on its back and he leaves it to dry out in the sun. However, as days pass, he starts to feel sorry for the suffering animal. Repenting of his cruelty, he tries to save it. And that is when this tale takes a strange twist. Instead of dying, the turtle turns into a woman!

From this point on, the visual narrative becomes one of a couple building a life for themselves on a solitary isle (think Swiss Family Robinson or Robinson Crusoe). Over time they have a baby (sexual relations are implied, not shown) who runs around naked exploring their world. They watch him grow from a boy to a man. And they face the challenges mother nature throws their way (some of which put their lives in peril). Their humble existence is illustrated in beautiful simplicity – and that seems to be the point of making this movie.

Audiences expecting the build-to-a-climax stories presented by American studios may be disappointed by this quiet observation of life that doesn’t provide that familiar framework. Yet fans of Studio Ghibli will already know their tales don’t follow traditional European storylines (Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Spirited Away). Rather, the Japanese production company is known for creating amazing artwork and extraordinarily animating ordinary details. This team effort with The Wild Bunch, just re-enforces that reputation.

Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit. Starring None.. Running time: 80 minutes. Theatrical release January 20, 2017. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Red Turtle here.

The Red Turtle Parents Guide

Although we know nothing of the man’s life before he becomes stranded on the island, it is obvious he would like to leave its shores. What things does he do to escape? When does he stop trying to leave? What do you think changes his mind? How would you respond if you were trapped on a deserted island?

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