I Lost My Body, from director Jérémy Clapin and Amélie screenwriter Guillaume Laurant, arrives on Netflix as one of the year's most acclaimed animated films -- it's the first cartoon to win the Grand Prize at Cannes' International Critics Week. It's certainly a different sort of animated movie than what audiences are used to, and visually, it's stunning. The story, however, is a mixed bag, the best parts not as impactful as they could be and the worst parts truly tiresome.
The better half of the bifurcated narrative focuses on the adventures of a severed hand in search of the rest of its body. This is where the film demonstrates the most of its visual creativity and animation talent (everyone knows how difficult hands are to draw well), and it's just weird enough to work. Yet even this doesn't have as much impact as it should.
You'd think a severed hand trying to navigate a hostile world on its own would be funny or scary, or both. Yet Clapin intentionally restrained any comedy or horror to maintain a mood of utmost seriousness. The extremely serious music in particular drowns out the potential humor. It's an odd approach for a scenario that, on its face, has more in common with the grotesque slapstick of Rick and Morty's "Pickle Rick" episode (particularly in an encounter with a group of rats) than with anything else.
The advantage of that serious tone is that it allows these dreamlike scenes to blend in with the other, more realistic, half of the story, in which we see the hand's memories of Naofel, the person to which it was attached. Those memories are initially glimpsed in abstract fragments but eventually give way to a more traditional, and tired, romance story in which Naofel desperately attempts to woo Gabrielle, a woman to whom he badly delivered a pizza.
Naofel's behavior is stalker-ish, and it's more difficult to sympathize with him than with his disembodied hand. To be fair, the movie acknowledges that; when Gabrielle realizes who Naofel is, and why he's been doing the things he's doing, she calls him out for his actions. The problem with the movie isn't that Naofel is an unlikable character, but rather that it prioritizes his self-actualization over providing any sense of Gabrielle's interior life.
I Lost My Body is one of those movies you can show those who still need convincing that animation is capable of telling serious stories for adults. It might also please those animation aficionados who lament that adult cartoons in America tend to focus on crude humor. Yet for all of its crudeness, there's honestly more joy and intelligence in "Pickle Rick's" treatment of both an unnaturally sentient creature braving the elements and of a selfish man called out his selfishness than there is in I Lost My Body's handling of the same material. It's great you can make animated movies about anything in any style. However, that doesn't mean that I Lost My Body's distinctiveness makes it a great film.
I Lost My Body is now streaming on Netflix.