Flow (2024)

Flow Review

Flow (2024)


The world is ending. There are animals everywhere, but no people. The black cat is alone. Then the water comes and in one scene it jumps onto a boat filled with animals (i.e., a ram, a dog with antlers, etc.) that become its new friends (it also thought they were food at first). They survive various challenges like jumping off cliffs and getting chased by weird black smoke monsters before finally landing in an urban area where every building has a statue of the cat on top of it (or next to it, this detail isn’t super clear). At some point there’s also another flood and they’re all separated for a while until they find each other again. That’s basically it.


So there’s this moment towards the end when he finds the ball or rather, when he doesn’t find it: He looks away for a second and then back again and suddenly it’s just there that really got to me.

It might not have if I hadn’t seen his face up close so many times before that moment. If I hadn’t watched him do everything else with those wide eyes and that cautious curiosity or maybe hopefulness which looks like ours even though we know better, because obviously he can’t understand what any of this means. Or maybe he can? Can he?

When did we decide to stop asking that question?

They say art should hold up a mirror to nature; I guess animals are just more natural than people these days.

Or maybe they’ve always been? Maybe we forgot how to see? I don’t know, but whatever happened here was different from what happened in other movies like this. It wasn’t even about them talking although I’m glad none of them did or having secret societies or anything like that: This wasn’t about us finding out that they’re more like us than we thought, but less too. Less like us, I mean? Yeah. That’s it.

When the humans disappear in “Flow” (and we don’t know why they’re gone or where), their absence feels more like a mystery than an opportunity because nobody seems to notice except for the cat, who you’d think would have better things to do than sit around all day waiting for someone to come home that isn’t coming but maybe that’s why he does it?

Maybe he’s not waiting for them at all. Maybe there’s just something about sitting in front of an empty chair that makes you feel seen again, even if it’s just by yourself.

Perhaps Earth has been bequeathed to the animals. Just like in the Bible, though, there is another deluge that covers everything. All but the very tip of one of its ears on which our cat hero is standing gets submerged by the waves. Until a boat floats by. On it is a capybara, who he becomes friends with. Then later a lemur, a stork and a golden retriever.

Well, “bonds with” might be too strong. Zilbalodis, just 29 years old and the director of the critically acclaimed 2019 animated feature “Away,” gives the cat moments of connection with his fellow travelers but also always has him keep his distance.One would think that his cuddliness would not be underscored given how cute this cat is anyway; cat lovers do worship at the altar of feline expressionlessness and all that. Still an awful lot of expression manages to come from him even without human-style emotions being drawn on his face by animators based in France and Belgium as well as Zilbalodis’ native Latvia.

The boat if we are going biblical here then this is definitely the smallest scale ark imaginable drifts through remnants of human civilization peeking through the surface of the water as our animals passively witness it all. They do learn how to steer the rudder on the boat, stretching plausibility for this scenario a tad , but really what follows is just them hanging out together until things happen to them. The cat falls into the water several times but always makes his way back not before taking in however many vividly colored fish below who he brings back onboard with him creating quite a little pile of good eatin’.

For animation buffs Bambi is considered one of Walt Disney’s high marks: For its multi-plane camera creating depth; for almost nature-doc-like realism in animal characters’ movements; for environmental effects like rain, snow, forest fire, leaves blowing that add texture; for an almost plotless “circle of life” theme and structure. “Flow” matches that and ups the ante these animals don’t even talk! The environments are CGI and the “camera” moves through them with a handheld-like jerkiness and momentum that makes Jon Favreau’s idea of simulating “filming” an animated movie in his Lion King remake look like child’s play. You really feel like you’re watching a lived-in environment here, the frame limiting what you’re seeing feels like it could go any number of directions.

But for the animals in Flow itself, Zilbalod is made a powerful choice. They’re obviously built around CGI wireframe models, but their surface texture their fur is abstracted to look like hand-drawn animation. It distances the cat and all the other members of the menagerie from anything resembling photorealism, instead having them bear the human-made warmth that hand-drawn conveys like nothing else. Maybe it’s just because Zilbalod is and his teams didn’t have the budget to animate rippling follicles of fur. But if so, then it’s yet another example of limitation inspiring greater artistic choice. The surface may not be entirely real but movements modeled underneath are so lifelike you feel like you’re glimpsing Plato’s eternal forms: The everlasting under neath its transitory surface.

The nearest approximately “Flow” from 2002 called “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.” The creators of this movie also didn’t anthropomorphize their animal characters and it could easily have been a silent film if they hadn’t had Matt Damon voice-over the title character as its narrator. Or maybe Suzie Templeton’s stop-motion short “Peter and the Wolf” from 2006. Which is all just to say how rare and wonderful “Flow” is. It’s not only a great example of a children’s film that adults will enjoy too. Being wordless, this movie can be shown in any country in the world because its ability to appeal to literally every single person on earth is boundless. But even so it’s radical while still being as accessible as any animated feature could ever be. In terms of anything, “Flow” should be both a commercial and an artistic success.

Will it happen? In any logical universe, absolutely. But that’s not where we live. If by some miracle it does become popular then in reality life itself will mirror the film’s own heartwarming moment: Things which were lost really can be found again.

Watch Flow For Free On Gomovies.

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