Pixar's Coco tackles dementia, memory, loss, love of music and following your passions despite the obstacles. Having had various levels of success over its last few releases, has Coco set Pixar's bar too high in trying to tackle such a depth of subjects?
Miguel is a musician. He knows it in his bones. Music calls to him and music is in his blood. His great- great grandfather was a musician. Music is part of his heritage and family legacy, there is however a problem. His great-great grandfather left. He left to pursue his dreams, sings his songs and chase fame. His departure hurt his great-great grandmother so much that music was banned in his family and his memory was erased from the family history. They became shoemakers, great shoemakers, but shoemakers with no music in their lives.
Miguel wrestles with this, hides away in his family homes crawl space quietly picking his guitar avoiding his grandmother who patrols the family residence, snuffing out music wherever she finds it. Miguel's passion goes against his family wishes and on discovery of his great-great grandfathers identity during Día de Muertos Miguel finds himself transported accidentally transported to the land of the dead where a journey of self-discovery and his true family story await.
Pixar are not shy in tackling high concepts and with Coco they have set the bar high again. Dealing with the Día de Muertos concept and how to best impart this to young audiences could be tricky but Pixar are the masters of vast, colourful, immersive worlds and this is a further great example to add to their legacy. There is nothing to fear in the land of the dead, relatives are skeletons but colourful and have great warmth and welcome. There is no sense of a cold death in this world. There may even be a greater sense of the importance of life in the land of the dead than among the living.
Memory is an important tool in the land of the dead. The desire to be remembered by those who loved you is strong as if there is no one left to remember you on earth, you fade away in the land of the dead. The importance of remembering and reminiscing about those we have lost is one of the greatest things you can do and Día de Muertos is geared towards preserving this.
As I watched Coco I was struck by how quickly we push memories away of those no longer with us. My European sensibilities would lean towards avoiding the pain of remembering my loss when the truth of Coco is that the life of those we love should be celebrated and should hold joy rather than pain.
As Miguel played to his great grandmother I shed several tears. I realised how much I missed my grandmothers, I realised how the pain of their loss still lived in me and the joy of celebrating their lives and legacy was something I needed to explore and lean into.
Pixar films are at their best they leave you with plenty to ponder, give you moments of reflection and pull your heart strings in all the best ways in the loveliest of moments.
I laughed, I contemplated, I inevitably cried.
Pixar are back to their best with Coco.
Coco is classified as a PG certificate by the BBFC
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Running time: 105 mins
Coco is in cinemas now.