Written and directed by Rui Hang, co-written by Rong Deng, after her mother dies, a teenager, Su, feels estranged from her father who seems to have already moved on. Voiced by Nia Baker and Joshua Glassburn.
Over the years it has become more and more clear that animation is a perfect format to tell stories of loss and grief, it can bring such a light, sweet touch which can be more difficult to achieve in live action. Here Rui Hang and Rong Deng flawlessly hits those notes of sentimentality, nostalgia and mourning. It was a great choice to pick one aspect to centre the story around, their annual trip, dealing with a short time frame, it allows Hang and Deng to cut through the need for context or a larger build up of the characters and get straight to the crux.
Hang’s style of animation is an interesting blend of textures, the backgrounds fall into more hand drawn territory while the characters are Henry Selick-esque, slightly exaggerated versions of people. There’s also a great mix of elements which almost look like reality over animation used in the settings, which then enhances the just slightly odd feel of the characters. It’s then topped with some great music work Min He which adds more of an adventure feel to the atmosphere. It brings together the emotional and sentimental air of the story with a classic warmth of iconic animation.
The only outlier of the film is the audio work, the sound mixing feels too clear, there’s almost an echo to it, which doesn’t match the softer quality to the film’s aesthetic. It’s a very minor issue which thankfully doesn’t detract from the experience overall. Outside of the clarity, the actual voice work is well done, Baker and Glassburn convey strong, kind personalities. The father-daughter dynamic is touching to watch, the themes may be very familiar but it still feels fresh.
There You Are is a charismatic, colourful and moving. It deftly deals with the topic of loss and grief, while building an adventure style feel to the atmosphere. The use of different textures within the animation is enjoyable to watch and gives things a slightly unique edge. It’s not a brand new story but the filmmakers have done enough to set it apart and follow its own path.