Saturday 11 October 2014

Moomins on the Riviera (2014) – Xavier Picard

The Moomins have always been far more than a series of cute and cuddly children's cartoons.  Created by the Finnish Tove Jansson, herself a lesbian, her work is permeated with philosophical depth and issues of the outsider.

That remains true in this new cartoon film.  It all begins with a sunrise over the glorious Nordic idyll of Moomin Valley.  Stunningly hand-drawn in pastel shades and accompanied by folk music, it introduces us to the genial Moomin family.  Like true romantics, they have a rich and satisfactory life, free, self-sufficient and devoid of greed. 

Yet somewhat naïvely, they are lured by their sense of adventure to visit the Riviera in the south.  The lush greens are swapped for a deep amber and the folk music changes to jazz as they journey south to a busy and glamorous land of celebrities, fashion, casinos and money, accompanied by the mischievous Little My.  Here the family are seen as eccentric and treated like royalty, yet it’s soon clear that they are lost in this materialistic world and long for their old life.

It’s a clear cautionary tale against the corporate modern world and its obsession with image, reminding us to take a breather and be content with a simpler way of life.  Further, it reflects the difficulties of the outsider, away from their home and their sense of belonging.  This is suggested not only by the family, but also by the shy dog they meet along the way.  “I only like cats”, he moans, before befriending another dog painted to look like a cat.  It’s a clear message for equality – in the world of the Moomins, we are all free to be ourselves and love who we like.

With an English cast headed up by Russell Tovey as the voice of Moomin, this is a beautifully created, quaint and lovely little film, filled with humour and charm.  The lack of fast-paced action might put off some youngsters, but with its meaningful depth, this is a true family film.


Watch: Moomins on the Riviera screens at the London Film Festival, with UK general release on 11th October.