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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Marona's Fantastic Tale is a French animated film (subtitled in English for U.S. release) about a dying dog who reflects back on her both melancholy and joyful life. It's like an animated and philosophical version of A Dog's Purpose, except the dog never reincarnates into new bodies, just changes names and owners over the course of one lifespan. The movie can be heartbreakingly sad but is also tender as it explores the various humans that 9/Ana/Sara/Marona bonds with throughout her life. Those sensitive to dog deaths/suffering should know that, as she says in the very first scene, the movie is about Marona rewinding and reflecting on her life as she's dying. There's also a scene of violence against an animal by an ill elderly woman: She's so consumed with pain that she throws a plate that shatters and injures her dog. Expect to see a bit of smoking and drinking by adults; language includes words like "turds" and "jerks." Lots of bittersweet sequences will likely make viewers of all ages emotional, but this is a beautiful tribute to the life-changing relationship between dogs and humans, and it promotes compassion, gratitude, empathy, and perseverance.
What's the story?
MARONA'S FANTASTIC TALE is a French animated drama that opens with a car crash that leaves a dog dying on the street. As the dog, Marona (voiced by Lizzie Brocheré), then explains, she's going to rewind the story of her life to the beginning during her final moments. What follows is Marona's personal journey, starting with her conception between a posh purebred Dogo Argentino stud and a beautiful mixed-breed street dog. At first, Marona is named "9" -- after her place in her mother's litter. After a brief interlude with her father's owner, she's put out and finds her way into the arms of Manole (Bruno Salomone), an up-and-coming circus acrobat who names her Ana. Eventually, Ana ends up with two more humans, one of whom, Istvan (Thierry Hancisse), calls her Sara and the other (and final) one, a young girl (Shirelle Mai-Yvart) who names her Marona. Although Marona experiences love and joy from her human companions, she also deals with pain, loss, disappointment, and loneliness.
Is it any good?
This bittersweet French chronicle of a lovable dog's memorable, melancholy life is poignant and philosophical in a way that's best suited for older kids and up. Although the movie is animated, it's not the typical funny "animals are so human-like" talking-dog adventure. Right up front, director Anca Damian spells out the fact that Marona is close to dying. This isn't a drill: She was just hit by a car and is recalling her life's highest highs and lowest lows. So it's not for viewers who are extra sensitive to dog deaths and suffering. And anyone who doesn't speak French should know that it's subtitled (rather than dubbed), which is wonderful, because Brocheré's voice beautifully captures the emotional beats of the story. Marona (aka Sara, aka Ana, aka 9) is a nuanced, layered character, and she perceives the world as a dog does, not a human. Even her description of playing catch is charmingly reversed: She thinks Istvan (probably her favorite of her loving but flawed humans) is the one who wants to throw the ball again and again.
The animation in Marona's Fantastic Tale is also done in a manner that evokes the dog's point of view -- with exaggerated and occasionally abstract depictions of bodies and faces and with her owners and loved ones always appearing larger than life and more vivid than those around them. Marona goes through a great deal of sadness and separation, and viewers of all ages will likely cry at her plight. Sometimes she chooses to leave someone for their own good; with others, she's left behind for one reason or another. She eventually comes to understand that life is full of pain and darkness but also joy and light. Existentialism aside, there are moments of humor and tenderness here, making this is a lovely treasure of an animated movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the brief but impactful violence and animal cruelty in Marona's Fantastic Tale. Why is violence against animals often particularly upsetting?
How does the movie address grief and abandonment? How is Marona's perspective on these themes different from a human's?
What does Marona learn from her various owners? Which of her names/homes is your favorite?
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2020
- Cast: Lizzie Brocheré, Bruno Salomone, Thierry Hancisse
- Director: Anca Damian
- Studio: GKIDS
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Perseverance
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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