(director/writer: Jérémy Clapin; screenwriter: novel “Happy Hand” by Guillaume Laurant; editor: Benjamin Massoubre; music: Dan Levy; cast: Voices: Dev Patel (Naoufel), Alia Shawkat (Gabrielle), George Wendt (Georges), Victoire Du Bois (Gabrielle), Patrick d’Assumçao (Gigi, uncle); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marc Du Pontavice; Netflix; 2019-France-in French, dubbed in English voices)

“A unique and morose dreamlike animation.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut feature of the French animator Jérémy Clapin is a unique and morose dreamlike animation. It’s a hand drawn work, about a broken man trying to become whole again. It gives us two stories that run together. One is about an amputated appendage trying to find its beloved owner after the hand was sliced off in a carpentry accident. The story is told from the point of view of the severed hand. The other story is about the owner of the hand, Naoufel (voiced by Dev Patel, if you opt for the dubbed alternative). He’s a refugee from Morocco living in Paris with an uncaring uncle (Patrick d’Assumçao) after his parents were killed in a car crash when he was a child (the kid was in the car and blames himself for their death). Those childhood scenes are shot in black-and-white.

In Paris the twentysomething orphan finds work as an inept pizza delivery boy until he falls for hipster librarian Gabrielle (Alia Shawkat) by listening to her voice through the intercom of her building, where he’s delivering a pizza. She doesn’t know who he is, but to get close to her he asks her carpenter uncle to become his apprentice and works in his workshop building her an igloo to put on top of her building. What goes wrong, goes wrong, as he stalks her.

The bizarre film mixes twisted black comedy with macabre horror film motifs, and is based on the 2006 novel “Happy Hand” by Guillaume Laurant, the author of Amelie. Laurant also co-writes the screenplay with Clapin.

Life is not good for the introverted lovelorn Naoufel in Paris. The sensational scene is the one that has the disembodied hand escaping from the medical refrigerator where it’s been stored in a hospital lab. The hand now travels the streets of Paris in search of its nerdy owner, Naoufel.

It appears that scene might be a rip-off scene out of “The Thing.”

The film works on fantasy film logic, as we are led to believe that the missing hand can see and hear. Also, for a conclusion expect only something abstract and you’ll be rewarded to find out the film’s vital questions the hand will ask its owner or if the owner will find the loved-one he yearns for. The film wants you to believe that it’s possible to recover any vital thing lost if you believe you can. 

REVIEWED ON 1/3/2020  GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/