Nahuel and the Magic Book is a beautiful animated film, the first of its kind to sprout from a collaboration between Chile and Brazil. While it may hit several familiar family-movie beats, the biggest selling point here is the traditional 2D animation style. Coupled with a story that draws from rich Mapuche mythology, Nahuel already has the bones of a fantastic film even before breaking through to the specifics.
The curious and inquisitive young boy Nahuel (Consuelo Pizarro) lives with his father in a small fishing town, and he has a deep fear of the sea rooted in his own mother’s death. One day, Nahuel follows a cat to a mysterious abandoned building, overgrown with wildlife. There he finds the Levisterio—an ancient book guarded by the magic protection of an aging sorcerer. Nahuel manages to snag the book in the hopes that it can help him overcome his fears, but unbeknownst to him, the evil and domineering Kalku (Marcelo Liapiz) has been waiting to snatch the book and unleash the power of its spells.
The warm and inviting old school 2D animation of Nahuel and the Magic Book welcomes you like an old friend. This feels very much like something that could’ve released in the heyday of the 2D boom. There’s even a creepy villain that will stop at nothing to obtain world domination! As mentioned before, there are cliches here too, and you can probably guess the ending from a mile away. There’s a strange issue with the subtitles that pulled me out of the movie on more than one occasion, where it seemed as if it was just auto-generated translation instead of something done by an actual human.
Like the best of its genre though, this film has more emotional depth than expected. A touching and beautiful moment with Nahuel’s deceased mother, and a heartfelt story between father and son, are prime examples of well-crafted tear-jerking elements that took me by surprise. Nahuel himself is charming even among his more impulsive qualities. He’s a young hero you can root for around every bend. Part coming-of-age exploration, part fantasy, and all love, Nahuel and the Magic Book is delightful fun for all ages.
Nahuel and the Magic Book screened at the Seattle International Film Festival, April 8th – April 18th, 2021.