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Families Are Forever

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Director: Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina
Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Benjamin Bratt and Gael García Bernaand others
Rating: * * * *

Coco would easily find a place in the list of Disney-Pixar’s best films, beautifully animated with a wonderful script and a heart-warming message (even though the love-yourfamily schtick is overused). It would also, perhaps, help take the fear of death out of a child’smind.

Directed by Lee Unkrich and AdrianMolina, and voiced entirely by Latino actors, Coco is set in a Mexican town during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities, when the people remember their ancestors by creating a shrine, ofrenda,with their photos, and visiting their graves with their favourite foods.

They believe that the spirits of their relatives cross over to see them on this day. It’s a lovely tradition, full of sentiment and folklore.

A prologue has established that the shoe-making Rivera family hates music, because an ancestor had abandoned his wife and daughter to pursue his career as amusician.

The daughter Coco is now an old woman (Ana Ofelia Murguia) losing her memory. 12-year-old Miguel Rivera (voiced energetically by Anthony Gonzalez) idolises Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt),musician and actor,who isworshipped as the town’s idol and wants to be a musician. But, even the thought gets him thwacked by his formidable grandmother (Renee Victor).

In trying to pick up Ernesto’s guitar to participate in a music competition, Miguel finds that he can see the dead, and they can see him. Between one thing and another, he finds himself going over the carpet of marigold petals into the Land of theDead, alongwith his stray dog buddy Dante, believing that Ernesto was his great-great-grandfather.

The rules of the land of the dead, full of stylised skeletons, say that if nobody places a relative’s photo on the ofrenda, they can’t go over to see their family. And if nobody remembers them, they simply fade away into nothingness.

Miguel wants to meet Ernesto, even though a gaggle of fussy relatives forbid it. His presence in the afterlife also means that he cannot go back till he is blessed by an ancestor.

All of this creates complications, adventure and not a little suspense.

Miguel runs into a goofy skeleton Hector (Gael García Bernal),who is desperate to go to Earth just once, but his photo is not on anybody’s ofrenda. He promisesMiguel a meeting with Ernesto, if he will take a photo back to his family.

Coco has a fabulously imagined land of the dead- - it is grander than the land of the living, butwith the same class structure and competitive streak; here too Ernesto lives in splendour and regales hismillions of fans. But the best thing about the film is that it is unpredictable and lightly steps over emotional
minefields to deliver a satisfying climax. This one’s an Oscar shoo-in and a must-watch for families.

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