Reviewing: Borrowed Time

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I am often amazed by the sheer depth of creativity some people have. To know that creators with amazing talents in art, animation and film create amazing stories execute them so beautifully, is almost too overwhelming and intimidating. Yet, for all the jealousy a fellow, inspiring creative may hold for these people, one can’t help but fall in endless love with their creations.

Borrowed Time is an animated short film created by Pixar animators Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats during their spare time as a side project. They posted the film independently on Vimeo, and it has been making its rounds in film festivals world-wide, garnering massive praise and several nominations.

The film opens on an weathered sheriff whose body shows the proof of a difficult life haunted by demons. The sheriff has returned to the ledge where an accident resulted in the death of his father when he was a young boy. The sheriff has been plagued by the events and has come to face his mistakes. As he has all his life, he must find the strength to carry on instead of succumbing to his desire to be free of guilt.

The film has a distinctly Pixar feel — its attention to small details and mannerisms reminded me so much of Up — and it featured the deep, visceral emotions that Pixar’s shorts have come to be known for. We could hear every tick of the watch, every scuff of a boot and every whisper of the breeze, that for the entire six minutes, I felt as though I were on that ledge myself. The animation is absolutely beautiful, not only in the time the animators took to finesse the sheriff’s ragged features, but also in their treatment of the vast Western skies and landscape.

Now, Pixar and Disney are known for making bold choices with their plot lines and they often subtly insert moralistic lessons that, it could be argued, are too mature for the children the film is made for. However, this short film was not made for children by any  means. Borrowed Time has a very serious and foreboding tone and deals with issues of grief, loss, guilt, suicide and moving forward. I thought each of these themes were so perfectly expressed — we know what the film is about but it doesn’t necessarily hit us over the head with it. It also keeps us thinking about our own lives, just as the sheriff does. We often ask the what-ifs about any situation, but in the end the reality remains and we must find ways to move forward instead of succumbing to the deep well of what could have been. I am absolutely blown away by the depth of this short film.

I read several articles about Borrowed Time, in which the creators are quoted as saying they wanted to make something that proved animation can be a genre for all ages, not just for children. I definitely agree. I have long been a fan of Pixar’s short films shown before their features in movie theaters (although I don’t think this one will be in theaters any time soon.) Some of my favorites are La Luna, Paperman and The Blue Umbrella. And in so many of these, the animators are pushing the limits of their craft, experimenting with different styles of storytelling and using more unique animation designs. I think the genre of short film holds such great potential for animators to move beyond that happy-go-lucky, bright and loud animation and into storytelling that can enhance traditional morals and lessons while appealing to audiences of all ages, backgrounds and experiences. Borrowed Time proves that animation is an art form and a sophisticated, valid and deeply moving genre of entertainment that can not only make us think about our lives, but move us in the same way as a piece of music or literature.

At least, it did that for me.

You can watch the full short film here.

What do you think about Borrowed Time? Do you think Pixar animators should continue to create more mature content like this? How do you think animators and film makers can utilize animation to enhance the emotion and resonance of their stories? Let’s talk.

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