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Turning Red- An emotional and heartfelt look at growing up

by Roisin Gordon. Published Sat 19 Mar 2022 17:20

Pixar are at their best when they create completely original stories that explore complex themes in a smart and creative way that captivates audiences of all ages.

Their latest effort, Turning Red is no exception, as it takes us on a journey of a young girl reaching adolescence that treats its subject matter with care and respect, but still packs the emotional punch that Pixar is known for.

The story follows Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a 13-year-old girl, who works hard for the approval of her overprotective mother but conceals her own personal interests from her, including her love for the boyband 4*Town and her newfound crush on an older boy.

One day, Mei makes a discovery that when she becomes too excited, she transforms into a giant red panda as a result of her ancestry. Initially embarrassed by her new appearance, Mei’s loyal friends try to help her to embrace her newfound identity, whilst her mother attempts to reverse the curse.

This film takes a mature approach to its themes that are not often explored in family friendly films, with Mei’s transformation serving as a metaphor for puberty and the changes our body goes through during adolescence.

When Mei goes through her transformations, she changes from prodigal daughter to a literal raging hormonal monster and experiences those all too familiar emotions of teenage angst and embarrassment.

In the scene where Mei first discovers her transformation, her mother assumes that she has gotten her first period and starts handing her sanitary towels. It’s refreshing to see a subject matter that is not often discussed in films, being dealt with in an honest and open way.

Similar to director Domee Shi’s Oscar winning short film Bao, the film pays homage to Chinese culture with such affection and even uses anime inspired animation in some scenes that gives it such a unique feel.

This is shown in the concert scene where Mei and her friends become overwhelmed at the sight of seeing 4*Town with their sparkly eyes and extreme facial expressions. It’s such a funny and relatable moment and the animation style just makes it even greater.

Right from the opening scene, you are endeared to Mei who has a great sense of self and is unapologetically dorky. She feels relatable as a young girl who is adjusting to the changes within herself but she doesn’t completely lose that spark that makes her special.

Mei’s relationships with her mother and friends are at the heart of this film, at times she struggles to appease both but it doesn’t get in the way of her unconditional love for them. She is afraid of disappointing her mother but doesn’t want to miss out on fun experiences with her friends.

Mei’s friends are hugely entertaining to watch, as they all have their own quirks that make them stand out as individuals but they really click together as a group.

When her friends first discover Mei’s new appearance, they are initially shocked but quickly accept it and assure that they love and will stand by her, no matter what her appearance is. It is such a heartwarming scene as their acceptance leads Mei to embracing her Red Panda side.

Turning Red is another outstanding effort from Pixar, it’s a little disappointing how this film was released straight to Disney Plus without the chance of a theatrical release, but nonetheless still worth watching.

Purple Revolver Rating: 4.5/5- Another Pixar powerhouse


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