[Film review] Eo

Review by John P. Harvey.

Eo follows the life of its eponymous protagonist, a grey donkey whose circus owner and trick rider, Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), loves him tenderly and protects him fiercely until the day comes when the local government, responding to a groundswell opposing use of animals in circuses, divests the circus of its non-human performing artists.

Ironically, losing his predictable circus life subjects Eo (played by six donkeys, Hola, Tako, Marietta, Ettore, Rocco, and Mela) to a variety of adventures and dangers simply because the people he meets fit him into their own agenda.  And, with rare exception, these circumstances share one commonality: a disappointing human mentality that treats his existence as a mere convenience — even to treating him as so much unprocessed salami.

The film does show — by and large from Eo’s own perspective, and therefore with minimal use of dialogue — a range of people’s attitudes to their fellow creatures.  One of his earlier homes even promotes kindness and connection by helping children feel utterly comfortable with Eo and other animals, large and small.  The film leaves us uncertain just how deliberately Eo takes his most dramatic actions; but the film maintains, throughout, the suggestion that Eo feels more for others than do most of the humans he meets.

Though the film is most obviously about exactly that, it clearly highlights another failing practically ubiquitous in people’s interactions with Eo and other animals in his vicinity: routinism.  From the movie’s beginning to its heart-wrenching end, those things that govern Eo’s life above all else are unthinking generalisations, largely, as already observed, without room for such particulars as compassion or sensitivity to individual character and circumstance.

Cinematically creative and emotionally educational, Eo is not, then, a happy movie.  But it’s one that puts us in the hoofsteps of a beautiful donkey with a hankering for love, a taste for freedom, and a simple wisdom.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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