Directed by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Benjamin Bratt
Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.
Music is a major no-no in Miguel’s family. Passed down by generations, the message is clear: the sweet sound of music, any music, is banned and that is that. Unfortunately, our hero only seems to have one true love in his life, apart from his family – and it’s the very thing they have forbidden. OOPSY.
This sorry story goes all the way back to Miguel’s great great great (?) grandmother Imelda Rivera in Santa Cecilia, Mexico. Imelda lives a modest, happy life with her husband and daughter Coco until he ups and leaves one day to pursue a life of fame and fortune as a musician. Imelda never forgives this horrible betrayal, banishing all reminders of Coco’s father and his talents forever. This includes removing his picture from the family hall of fame because fuck him, right?
As time passes, Imelda teaches herself to make shoes and as her family grows and grows, so does the family business. She lives a full life jam-packed with love and family. We begin the film with a heartwarming family history lesson, narrated by Miguel himself in present day.
Miguel lives with his parents, grandmother, great great grandmother Coco and various cousins, uncles and pets in the very same Mexican village. While he helps with the shoe-making business after school, his heart is secretly so not in it. Instead he keeps his musical hobbies hidden, including his obsession with Mexico’s most famous musician and actor, the late Ernesto de la Cruz.
One day, on Mexican Día de Muertos, Miguel puts two and two together, realising that his connection to de la Cruz runs deeper than simple admiration. During preparations for the ofrenda, Miguel runs away from his family and stumbles into an otherworldly adventure that will change his life forever.
Coco is an absolute assault on the eyeballs in the very best way. There’s so much to take in, so much to see that it takes your breath away. The detail is stunning, every little flourish refined to perfection.
The other side, which I’m leaving to your imagination, is as multi-layered and colourful as a dream – no words I could choose would do it justice anyway. Catching it on the big screen is a sensible shout if just to get an idea of the sheer scale of what Pixar have achieved here. There’s a reason this is Oscar nommed, and I would say it is very much deserving of the statuette.
But in case you think it’s all visual stimulus and not much else, rest assured the story is lovely too. Miguel of course learns a lesson along the way but then so do his family – and maybe so will we, the viewer. Family is important, yo – but so are dreams and in the words of Ernesto, don’t be afraid to seize your moment.
Coco is a cautionary tale though, fame and dreams come with a price, you just have to be mindful about what you’re willing to pay for it. This lovely film is also a poignant reminder to remember our loved ones, to honour their memories and never let them die. A mature topic for a kids film but this isn’t the first time Pixar has cut straight to the heart, is it? (Who isn’t still scarred by Up/Inside Out/*insert favourite* here?).
Maybe, just maybe this film is a smidge too long but there’s so much to love about it. I’m utterly blown away by the bridges of petals and the spirit animals that pepper each scene on the other side. Frida Kahlo’s appearance is charming, while the big party scene at the de la Cruz mansion is Great Gatsby decadent and a visual feast for the eyes.
Go see this on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Even the kids talking all the way through it won’t annoy you, I’m sure.