Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a visionary masterpiece and the most meaningful adaptation of the story yet. It’s hard not to appreciate the stop motion animation alone, but the magically enamoring screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, Gris Grimley, and Matthew Robbins plays a colossal role as well. The story feels fresh in this version, heartwarming and haunting simultaneously as it takes viewers through the darker trenches of grief in order to showcase healing.
Pinocchio, in general, is a dark story, but more often than not, as the darkness is dimmed and the story tries to bring itself to life, it fails to communicate what it truly means to gain something worthwhile in the end. However, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio focuses intently on this darkness as it brights the necessary barrels while guiding its audience through grief and loss masterfully. There’s a light in this adaptation that examines desolation through a nuanced look into what it means to find a purpose. Is it being a caretaker? A writer? A performer? What lengths are people willing to go through to find a light at the end of their lives to make every moment of it worth it? The film carefully answers each question it poses through subtle, meticulous decision-making that never once takes the magic out of the story.
For me, Pinocchio is one of Disney’s least memorable stories. If you had asked me what it’s about, I’d say I don’t know; his nose grows every time he lies. But that’s because, as a child, I never felt the need to rewatch the film after the first time, whereas, with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, I’m already itching to rewatch it with the whole family. As this version takes us through Gepetto’s (David Bradley) grief, it addresses the desperation brought on by loss in a believable way.
Grief isn’t easy on anyone, but sometimes it’s so awful that there’s no natural way forward. Gepetto would never be the man he was before losing Carlo, which was a fact the story was adamant that we accept. And accepting the fact was easy, especially if you’ve experienced grief and know how drastically the loss changes you. But the film doesn’t rely on this tactic; instead, it carefully shows it to us through every character and every movement. It doesn’t dance around the grief; it plunges deep into its darkest corridors to come out of it potentially healed.
The beauty in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio comes from the fine subtlety. It looks into complex, haunting themes that center around desperation and corruption. It’s a story about second chances, fathers and sons, but at its crux about taking the time to understand the things that might be scary at first. It’s a story about all the facets that make us complex beings, whether flesh or wooden, and the parts of ourselves matter the most.
It’s a story that thoroughly darts into what it means to love again and how that love can be translated outward to make the world a little brighter, even amidst moments of utter hopelessness. Through astounding, undeniably stunning animation, brilliant direction, and engaging voice acting by various stars like Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Gregory Mann, John Turturro, Cate Blanchett, Burn Gorman, and more, the adaptation stands as one of the best films of the year.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio will be streaming on Netflix on December 9.