Marona's Fantastic Tale

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Marona's Fantastic Tale Movie Poster Image
Beautiful, heart-tugging dog drama has some sad moments.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 92 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Explores how pets feel about humans, how their lives are made of both joyous and painful moments. Importance of connection between dogs and humans is movie's central theme; other themes include compassion, gratitude, empathy, perseverance. Marona forever holds her former owners and their love and affection in her heart, no matter how many years pass. Life-changing bond and friendship between dogs and their human owners is what Marona craves most.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Marona's various owners all care about her in their own way, but they're each believably flawed. One loves her but has a manipulative girlfriend who pretends to be allergic; another is dedicated to her but would have to sacrifice his career to keep her; another is physically ill and can't care for her properly; and one is a girl who goes through adolescence and doesn't have as much time for her pet. They aren't all role models all the time, but they have moments of being good and kind to Marona (Sara/Anna).

Violence

Movie opens with Marona being struck by car ("a smudge on the asphalt" she calls herself). She's bleeding and dying (the animation is a bit abstract, but she's flat on the street, and her owner comes to cuddle with her). Other times Marona experiences peril at the hands of dog catchers pursuing her, being abandoned in the woods, and bleeding because an ill, elderly woman throws a plate that smashes and cuts her.

Sex

In one sequence, dog's owner has a live-in girlfriend who kisses him in order to manipulate him. She pouts and kisses and sits on his lap. Marona discusses her conception (between a posh purebred stud and a beautiful mixed-breed street dog).

Language

A few insults in subtitles: "turd," "jerks," "turd with eyes," "mutt."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few scenes of humans drinking at bars and home. A couple of adult characters smoke cigarettes; a dog catcher does so menacingly.

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.

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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?

  • How does Marona's story promote empathy? Why is that an important character strength?

Movie details

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