Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Canvas Movie Poster Image
Moody, dialogue-free short film has lovely messages.
  • G
  • 2020
  • 9 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about the human need to create as well as the importance of family and the feelings associated with grief.

Positive Messages

Family is there to support each other, through better and worse, in life and death. It's important to keep looking and moving forward through one's grief even after the death of a loved one. Making art can be a cathartic process and outlet. Sometimes a child's intuition can be instructive to adults.

Positive Role Models

An older Black man in a wheelchair has lost his creative inspiration in the wake of a personal tragedy, but the support of his loving daughter and granddaughter helps him rediscover the desire to create again. The family members keep returning to the man's house despite his sometimes-dark moods. The granddaughter motivates him to stay open to love.

Violence & Scariness

The man knocks an easel over, seemingly in anger. He also looks angry with his granddaughter when he discovers she has entered a hidden room in his house. It's apparent from the granddaughter's drawing of a woman in heaven that the man's wife (or partner) has passed away.

Sexy Stuff

The man and his presumably dead wife or partner hug and kiss in a scene that appears to be imagined.


The film has no spoken lines.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Canvas is an animated short film, but its target audience isn't especially young kids. The lack of spoken lines could make it confusing or too slow-moving for very young kids, who could also be unsettled by the man's dark moods, the apparent recent death of his wife or partner, and the slight mysteriousness of the story. The man knocks an easel over, seemingly in anger. He also looks angry with his young granddaughter when he discovers she has entered a hidden room in his house. The theme of grief may be too emotionally intense for sensitive kids. In a touching scene that appears to be a fantasy, the man enters a canvas and sees the woman. They hug and kiss. Positive messages about family, finding hope, and healing.

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What's the story?

An elderly man in a wheelchair stares moodily at an empty easel stand and, later, knocks it over angrily in CANVAS. Inside his house there's a dark closet with women's clothes hanging. When his daughter and granddaughter visit, the girl creates a crayon drawing with a woman as an angel looking down on the man. The granddaughter finds a mysterious hidden room behind the closet and, in it, a painting of the woman. The man appears angry that his granddaughter is in the room. The girl and the painting she has discovered will help the man in ways as yet undetected.

Is it any good?

The short film Canvas packs plenty of emotion into 9 minutes (actually, 8 minutes plus a minute for credits). Dialogue-free, the film relies on a combination of animation styles and a melodramatic, strings-heavy musical score, harp included, to convey sensations. The story unfolds through those visual and auditory clues, with the blue tint of the grandfather's house matching his mood and contrasting with the golden yellow outdoors. The lovely story features an elderly man in a wheelchair longing for his apparently dead female spouse or partner. The emotional support of two younger females, presumably his daughter and granddaughter, and the wisdom of the latter, will help him find his inspiration again. It's a beautiful, emotionally intense film that may inspire discussion about grief and healing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the clues that inform viewers of what's happening in Canvas, in the absence of dialogue. For example, when did you figure out what the clothes in the closet represented?

  • Do you think the man was imagining the reunion with his wife, or was that some kind of out-of-body experience? Why do you think so?

  • What are the opportunities and shortcomings of the short film format?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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