Review: The Flying Sailor

Written and directed by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, inspired by the incredible story of a man who was blown two kilometres through the air by the Halifax Explosion.

One of the greatest things that The Flying Sailor achieves is opening up with such a cheerful tone, creating an atmosphere of classic cartoons, particularly with its score, then hitting you with that drastic change as the explosion takes hold. The contrast of it is clever, fun and intensely satisfying to experience. Using that feel of safety from embracing the nostalgia of Saturday morning and pre-feature style cartoons to lull you into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under you. It then adapts into a completely different tone, it brings through a sincere emotion and takes a firm hold of you as it becomes a reflection upon an entire lifetime.

There’s a similar progression to the style of animation, starting out with a loving charm that comes from the hand drawn style then bringing through a mix of reality, existentialism and memories. It holds a surprising amount of emotion, which is in no small part due to the sublime score work by Luigi Allemano. It provides a beautiful guiding hand through this moving story, elevating the atmosphere and impact. It’s simultaneously colourful and vibrant, which is an unusual mix for a film touched by sadness and following a path of self-reflection in a moment of mortality but it works extremely well.

Being based on a true story is a factor that films will almost always benefit from. In this case it’s so difficult to believe that it only adds to the genuine feeling of the atmosphere. It goes to Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s credit that you never think twice about there being no dialogue, they create a world which draws you in so succinctly, that it lacks for nothing. It moves in an almost hypnotic matter and adds an ending note that’s practically operatic in tone and, just as it started, it ends with a bang.

The Flying Sailor is moving, beautifully scored and features a loving, compelling blend of animation styles. It takes you off guard then hits you with a surprising amount of emotion, creating a wonderfully unusual way to tell such a bizarre story. Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby bring everything you didn’t know you needed to life with this story, making something wholly original, entertaining and touching.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

Shortlisted at the Academy Awards 2023 for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ & soon to be seen at Sundance Film Festival

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