Movie review: 'Perlimps' (2022)
Perlimps (trailer) is a Brazilian 2D animated film, the second from animator and director Alê Abreu. After seeing his earlier film, Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo, 2013), I really wanted to see what his next project would be like. I wasn't expecting to wait nine years!
Abreu's films definitely do not adhere to typical Hollywood narrative structures, veering towards the artsy without being self-indulgent. Boy and the World, for example, has no dialog at all, and conveys things entirely with sounds and visuals. (As well as being an abstract statement about growing up and the poverty that comes from the exploitation of labor.)
Perlimps is way more approachable in comparison. On the surface, judging by its trailer, I thought it was going to be another film about the devastation of the environment by humans. It does some of that, sure, but that's just surface stuff.
The rest of the film's surface is all in the trailer. Claé (an orange wolf) and Bruô (a blue bear) are secret agents from the opposing kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, trying to find the Perlimps, mysterious entities who can help save the forest from the encroachment of man.
Claé and Bruô start as antagonists who must cooperate to fulfill their mission. Something they both have in common are their egos, bragging about their skills and respective kingdoms, even as they gradually become friends. (Though they would be reluctant to admit this.) The bravado also feels like it's compensating for something.
If you're looking for the furry expression of bear-ness or wolf-ness, while they do carry some traits of their species, it's largely symbolic. Their visual design is not typical and very stylized, with a kind of pantomime look. Bruô's arm and leg tufts reminded me of 1980s aerobic leg-warmers, and he has a self-described lion's tail (also blue).
Ohh, the colors in this film! Just stunning use of bright colors. Parts of the film felt ethereal and almost dream-like. Shades of oranges and pinks, greens and blues, subtly fading into each other. After I left the theater and looked around at the dull grey of the concrete buildings around me, even on a beautiful bright and sunny day, there simply wasn't the same vibrancy. The film's music was good too. No melody I could recall afterwards, it was ambient and atmospheric, an excellent fit for its visuals.
This is an extremely metaphorical movie, very open to personal interpretation. Despite that kind of vagueness, it kept me watching from beginning to end. In fact afterwards I had to go for a walk, to process it. Small things evoked stuff that's happened in [place] and [place], which I don't want to mention, for fear that my review would come off as political. It's not a political film. But you could potentially read all sorts of things into it, it's that adaptable.
As it leans towards the artsy, there are some aspects near the end that are... less comforting. Speaking personally here, what the film represents for me, is that even if the world can be bleak, and there are things I can't fix, what matters is that I keep an inner momentum, and be willing to enact positive change in the future. What you take away from this film might be something vastly different. While the characters' situations are uncertain and far from perfect, there remains positive hope for the characters themselves.
If you're looking to see something furry as an escape, a film you can re-watch with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, I don't think this is a good fit. I can't say why, not without spoilers. But I'm very glad I watched this. The visuals in particular really worked for me, and the metaphoric aspects made me think. This is not a film I'd use as a substitute babysitter, but it's an experience that I'd encourage parents to watch with their children, assuming a dubbed version will be made. And if you're interested in animated films in general, furry or not, I'd say it's definitely worth a watch.
At the moment Perlimps is doing the art and animation festival circuit, so it's unclear when it'll become more widely available. Sony Pictures has some of the distribution rights, but I don't think it's gotten a North American distributor yet. The version I watched was in Portuguese with English subtitles. If anyone hears more news about it, please post in the comments below! And now I really want to see what Alê Abreu's next project will be like!
Small update, the film was screened last weekend at the Animation Is Film festival. Not sure how long that link will stay up, but they have a wider selection of screenshots posted! Hopefully we'll start to see more reviews trickling in across the Internet?
Apparently the title is similar to the Portuguese word pirilampos (fireflies).
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