Movies without words are not silent movies. You can hear the wind, the water, birds chirping, the tide of the sea coming in, the gentle rushing of leaves and the sounds of insects at night. When talking animation, sound becomes specially important. The visuals are always made up, so the sounds are particularly important to heighten the sense of familiarity. In a story without any dialog, conveying intention and a sense of urgency rely on sights and sound to set the mood.

(Credit: Gints Zilbalodis)

Away is a computer-generated film created by Gints Zilbalodis. The story is about one man trying to make it across one point of an island to another where civilization exists. The urgency comes from a giant walking shadowy figure that seems to kill everything it absorbs. Fortunately for him, there are resources he can use. There’s a motorcycle left behind by someone else. There’s a backpack full of items such as a map and a telescope. And finally, there’s a yellow bird that doesn’t know how to fly yet.

To mark his progress, there are markers in the form of arches that he goes through. These milestones reminded me of another island, one in a video game. There’s an unmistakable influence of video games, specially of the exploration kind as acknowledged by the director in the Q&A that followed. Indeed, the story feels very much about exploration. As the character travels from one part of the island to another, he encounters different environments, each with its own charm, danger or even humour. The urgency is driven by his need to survive, reconnect with civilization and escape the giant shadowy figure that follows him.

Strongly recommended for animation enthusiasts, although casual viewers avid for a new experience should also try to experience it. I fear the experience will be minimized a little if you watch it alone though. Nothing beats watching it with an audience on the big screen. Still, I have to say I wouldn’t expect the family crowd to enjoy it. It doesn’t spoon-feed you any information, which is a great, amazing thing. So, with zero exposition, you have to enjoy the movie for what it is. That is enjoyable to some, annoying to others. It’s too bad, because they’re missing out.

That will do for now.