If you find yourself with a spare couple of hours over the Christmas period – or even if you don’t – you should go watch Coco, this year’s Pixar release that will have you sobbing with joy. In fact, go watch it a few times – once with your friends, then once with your family. And then once more on your own.
The 3D computer-animated musical fantasy follows the story of a 12-year-old Mexican boy, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who wants to become a famous musician. This dream of his goes against the wishes of his family – but his overwhelming love of music is too strong for Miguel to ignore.
On Día de los Muertos – or the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico – he accidentally finds himself in a strange place that he learns is called the Land of the Dead.
This is the underworld, and known as the final destination for spirits of the deceased, and it’s here he meets Hector (Gael García Bernal) – the spirit of a Mexican musician. Together, the duo set out to get Miguel back to the land of the living … uncovering a mysterious family secret that can be traced back to Miguel’s great-grandmother, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) along the way.
Coco is a magical film that will make viewers laugh, cry and smile in turn. Sure, much of the story is set in the Land of the Dead, but there’s nothing morbid or macabre about it. The underworld is rendered in bright, beautiful colours, the music is earworm-inducing, and the atmosphere is infused with joy and delight, suggesting that there’s nothing to fear in death.
Combine that with the film’s underlying message that the passing of a person’s body is only the “first death” (the second being when no one remembers you any more), and you have a film that’s both heartbreakingly bittersweet and tremendously lovely.
Perhaps the best part of Coco is that the plot twist, which we won’t ruin for you, is not one you see coming – though, on reflection, you can see how previous events in the film have led up to it.
The movie is respectful of the Mexican culture and in its portrayal of the Day of the Dead. Viewers might not be familiar with the event itself, but they will see in Coco lovingly carried out customs and traditions very much like their own that are conducted by their own families. The characters seamlessly blend spoken English and Spanish together in a way that, oddly, isn’t confusing at all. Watch this one undubbed.
Anything and everything seems possible after you finish watching Coco. You’ll leave the cinema feeling like you’re looking at the world with a new perspective and a new mindset. Be prepared to declare Coco your new favourite Pixar film. It’s certainly ours.