French animation feature film “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” is a remarkable piece of work to be admired and appreciated for many good reasons. While there is a certain undercurrent of sadness and melancholy around its story and characters, the film often dazzles and exalts us with a series of fantastic visual moments, and then it somehow brings out genuine poignancy as heading toward its predetermined finale along with its canine heroine.
The story begins with the unfortunate death of a female dog of mixed breed, who is called Marona (voiced by Lizzie Brocheré) at this point. As she is dying on the ground, Marona’s fading mind comes to reflect on her whole life from the beginning to the end, and she accordingly begins to tell us about how she was moved from one owner to another throughout her whole life.
At first, Marona was one of the nine love puppies born between an arrogant male dog of pure breed and a gentle female dog of mixed breed, and she was called ‘Nine’ simply because she was the youngest one in the bunch. While she was happy along with her other siblings under their mother’s loving care, Marona was soon taken to the owner of her father, who, not so surprisingly, did not pay much attention to her right from the first day with her.
Anyway, her father’s owner eventually comes to abandon Marona, who helplessly wanders around here and there in the city until she happens to be taken to a young struggling acrobat named Manoe (voiced by Bruno Salomone). Although his attic residence looks small and shabby to say the least, Manole sincerely takes care of Marona, and Manora, who is now called Ana at this point, is just happy to receive lots of love and attention from her new owner. She often watches Manole going through a number of smooth and graceful physical movements, and these moments are vividly and colorfully presented on the screen via stylish animation style. While many objects and human figures in the film are broadly simplified or exaggerated, they are undeniably memorable to say the least, and the overall result often feels like being immersed into a series of wild modern art paintings.
While Manole becomes more attached to Marona day by day, Marona comes to discern that her presence has unintentionally prevented Manole from moving onto the next possible step of his career, so she decides to leave Manole’s residence on one day. Again, she aimlessly wanders around in the city, and then she finds a spot which looks good as a temporary shelter for her, and that is how she comes to encounter Istvan (voiced by Thierry Hancisse), a hulking dude who turns out to be quite soft-hearted in contrast. While Istvan and other workers busily work at the spot which happens to be a new construction site, the film switches onto a different animation style represented by numerous straight lines and various geometrical objects, and we later get a brief nightmarish moment which terrifies Marona before she is eventually taken to Istvan’s apartment.
Now called “Sara”, Marona tries to get accustomed to her new owner, but, of course, her new situation turns out to be as problematic as the previous one. Istvan initially thinks that Marona will be a good companion for his ailing mother, but, alas, that leads to a disastrous outcome which makes him send his mother to a facility for old people in the end. When he begins to live with his girlfriend after that, it is quite apparent to us from the beginning that she is your average self-absorbed lady, and she quickly gets tired of raising Marona with her boyfriend even though she promises to him that she will take care of Marona as well as she can.
When his girlfriend finally suggests that they should get rid of Marona, Istvan naturally objects to that, but it does not take much time for his girlfriend to persuade him to do that, and Marona is not so surprised at all. At least, she is subsequently found by a young girl named Solange (voiced by Nathalie Boutefeu), who stubbornly insists to her single mother and grumpy grandfather that they should keep Marona in their small apartment.
However, Solange turns out to be not an ideal dog owner just like Marona’s previous owners. As growing up more, she is often distracted by many other things in her adolescent life, and, to our little amusement, Marona finds herself getting more care and attention from Solange’s mother and grandfather, who begrudgingly admits to himself (and us) at one point later in the story that he actually cares a lot about Marona, though she has not been on good terms with his equally grumpy cat.
As steadily sticking to her canine heroine’s viewpoint as much as possible, director/writer Anca Damia lets us emphasize more with her canine heorine along the story, and that is why the expected finale is delivered with a considerable emotional effect for us. Thanks to Damia’s thoughtful restraint, this part does not look as horrible as you think, but its tragic aspect is still clearly conveyed to us nonetheless, and you will come to feel more compassion to many pet dogs out there when the film is over.
On the whole, “Marona’s Fantastic Tale” is alternatively exciting and touching due to its first-rate cell animation style as well as its empathetic storytelling, and it surely surpasses whatever I saw from many of digital animation products I saw during recent years. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best animation films of this year, and I strongly recommend you not to miss this small but precious gem.