In Review

Film review: Flee 

Moving animated documentary about an Afghan refugee

This “unmissable” Danish animation received three Oscar nominations last week, which should bump it up “a little higher on audience radars”, said Christina Newland in The i Paper. The film tells the “anguish-ridden but ultimately hopeful true story” of Amin, a gay Afghan refugee who was raised in Kabul, escaped the mujahideen asayoung man in the 1980s, relocated to Soviet Russia, and finally settled in Copenhagen “with a head full of haunting memories”. While archive footage is woven in, most of the film unfolds in a “deliberately crude pencilled animation style” that manages to convey Amin’s often horrifying experiences in a sensitive and “deeply humane” fashion. 

This is a film that “simply wouldn’t have worked in any medium but animation”, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who met Amin when they were at school together, reconstructs his friend’s life story “as a string of reminiscences, some flurried and impressionistic, set down hot in a matter of moments, and others recorded with serene, Tintin-esque precision”. Amin himself, whose real name is not disclosed, is “great company” throughout: “unsparing, eloquent and self-effacing”. I found the whole thing “thrillingly unique”; both “achingly beautiful and humane”. 

The “serious cartoon for grown-ups genre” – think Persepolis or Waltz with Bashir – may have found its defining entry with this “affecting” documentary, agreed Kevin Maher in The Times. As the film proceeds, the “violations and emotional endurances” become almost unbearable–yet the director unleashes a “climax of such bittersweet ecstasy that all but the hardest hearts will shatter”. It ends in “tears of joy”; some Oscars would be “a fitting coda”.

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