I cried. I know. Surprise, surprise. But I did.
It’s a lovely story that will take you out of yourself and then bring you back, a little wiser, a little happier. It is brought to life in an enchanting use of artistic animation and music and, so importantly, absolutely perfect voices, full of emotion and meaning. I won’t go on and on because I COULD go on and on, so instead I’ll share some more goodies about the film with you and continue to hope you will be able to see The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse someday soon. heart
behind the scenes
‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’ Review: Charlie Mackesy’s Story Is a Wonderful Holiday Gift
Idris Elba, Tom Hollander, and Gabriel Byrne lend their voices to this deep and stunning work of art.
A quick glance at the film’s artwork and straightforward title, and it’s easy to assume that this is a movie geared toward children. Its on-the-surface-simple premise about a lost boy trying to find home with the help of some animals also supports that idea. But shortly into this 35-minute delight, you realize that this movie’s universal message defies any age group. That’s just part of the many reasons why this story has touched so many people around the world. Mackesy, the British illustrator and author behind the 2019 international bestseller on which this short film is based, has made it clear through his simple yet profound storytelling that he wants to challenge the way we think . . .
Yes, there is the adorable mole who is sure to remind us of his love of cake at the most unpredictable and inappropriate times (his use of “lemon drizzle” as an expletive is just precious), though other than that cute and sweet detail, it feels at times like characters are speaking directly to an adult audience. I know, I know, I just said a few sentences ago that this film applied to anyone and everyone, no matter the age. That still holds true! But some themes and layered bits of dialogue can only be appreciated by someone who has experienced the best and worst that life has to offer. “When the big things feel out of control, focus on what you love, right under your nose. This storm shall pass,” the Horse tells the overwhelmed Boy during the storm. Another one of the deeper correspondences is when the Boy asks the Horse, with genuine curiosity, what the bravest thing he ever said was. After a pause, the Horse says, “Help. Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.”
Fans of Mackesy’s book will be utterly delighted to see that the hand-drawn illustrations translate beautifully to the screen without losing any of its neat-yet-messy aesthetic. Because the lines are literally pulled from the pages of the detailed original work, the movie feels less like a short film with a progressing story and more like a moving book. It doesn’t have the same pacing or plot propulsion that a typical short would, but that just adds to the charm of it. A thoughtful score by Isobel Waller-Bridge, and partial writing credit from Paddington 2 writer Jon Croker all blend together to make the irresistible end product. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is poised to be a new holiday tradition.
The Companion Book for the Film
The “Making Of” book for the film is available in hardback and e-book editions at Amazon US, and at other bookstores and libraries in the US and the UK, too.
From Charlie Mackesy, the author of the internationally beloved tome, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse, comes a companion book to the film adaption—now streaming on Apple TV+.
A journey, in search of home…
This beautifully hardcover edition of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse celebrates the work of more than a 100 animators across two years of production–with Charlie Mackesy’s distinctive illustrations brought to life in full color with hand-drawn traditional animation and accompanying hand-written script.
“I made a film with some friends about a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse—their journey together and the boy’s search for home. I hope this book gives you courage and makes you feel loved.” Love Charlie x
Virginia Heffernan: On Christmas
Virginia Heffernan was once a writer for The New York Times, covering television and media. Back in 2009, she published my “open letter” to HBO, in which I laid out all of the very sincere and thoughtful evidence to support renewing IN TREATMENT for a second season, at her official blog! Yeah, right. I was fangirling like the Byrneholic I was and she was lovely and very supportive of that outpouring of energy and emotion. I’ve followed her ever since and she is now everywhere (Wired, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, and her books, too). Her Substack, Magic + Loss is fantastic, so I recommend it to you. In a recent entry, she contemplates the true meaning of Christmas:
It’s always the snow we miss. Even before winters became measurably warmer, and the ice thinned and melted, adults were remembering their far-off childhoods as uniquely blanketed in snow.
Où sont les neiges d’antan?—Where are the snows of yesteryear?—is a line from François Villon, the medieval French poet, that has become shorthand for all nostalgic longing. Snow and nostalgia are practically one.
For those in consumerist and majority-Christian countries, another question about winters gone by is implied: Where are the Christmases d’antan?
Every year a consensus reasserts itself, from the pulpit and around the dinner table: Christmases of an imprecise past were much, much better than this one. The true meaning of Christmas has been lost—left back there, back with the deep, pure snow drifts of yore; back before people sundered by greed and politics; back it was undeniably cold, before Big Oil and global warming.
If Jews on Passover eat Maror to remember the bitterness of being enslaved in Egypt, Christians on Christmas eat frosted cookies to remind themselves how much better the cookies were in 2012, or 1981, or in the other house, or with the other family, or before this or that in-law showed up. Aching nostalgia for true meaning and terrible annual disappointment in discovering that that meaning is always out of reach, are not incidental to Christmas. They’re the whole roast beast…
I include her musings here because, for me, Charlie Mackesy’s book, and now the film of that book, offers a Christmas d’antan, complete with snow and magic, and the added loveliness of Gabriel Byrne’s voice. I hope you have a chance to see this wonderful holiday gift.
If you would like to learn more about Charlie Mackesy and his art, visit his website, which now includes some great images from the film.
Happy New Year! heart