Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

My Grandfather’s Demons is perhaps the most gorgeously animated movie of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. This stop-motion import from Portugal has more heart and originality than I had been anticipating, driven home by the stunning imagery and excellent writing at the heart of the film. Blending rich folklore with the ties of familial bonds, My Grandfather’s Demons unfolds its story through the eyes of an overworked and underpaid design-agency worker.

Rosa is frustratingly going through the motions behind the desk of her office job with little to motivate or embolden her life. She gets invited out, but passes to attend a body training program. Mail keeps getting returned from her last address, causing her to reminisce about the postcards she had been exchanging back and forth with her grandfather. Rosa lived with him from a very young age after her mom passed away, and the two remained close until she moved away to start her career. Rosa also keeps getting calls from an unknown number, but doesn’t put two and two together. Finally in frustration, she answers—her grandfather has sadly passed away. Reeling from the loss of someone she had hoped to reconnect with, Rosa does eventually discover that he has left all of his properties and everything in her name. 

Now, Rosa must return to the countryside to get her father’s affairs in order and decide whether or not she wants to sell the land. Hoping for a sort of spiritual reset and reconnection to the love she had for her grandfather, Rosa tries to adjust to her new surroundings. However, Rosa’s grandfather was not a well-liked man around town. Rosa is only met with hostility—the locals won’t give her bread, and leave manure on her car. The people in the village gossip that Rosa will not last through the winter. As Rosa races to uncover the curse of her father’s land, folklore becomes key to the town’s dry spell.

Uniquely, My Grandfather’s Demons starts out with a clinical, stylized 3D tone; as Rosa heads for her father’s town, the movie transforms into lush and spectacular stop-motion animation. A third sort of style is introduced via flashbacks and depictions of the past that includes blended faces and miniatures. The story is touching in a surprising sort of ways, and the eventual ending is truly worthy of a standing ovation. A wonderful meditation of grief and the pace one lives their life, My Grandfather’s Demons is a unique animated film that is practically an instant classic.

My Grandfather’s Demons screened at 2022’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

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