Animation Features Movies

A Greyhound
of a Girl

Director – Enzo d’Alò – 2023 – Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, UK, Latvia, Estonia, Germany – Cert. U – 88m


A young, cookery-obsessed girl with a fear of dogs must come to terms with the fact that her beloved granny is dying – animated feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 28th

Ireland. Faced with an unsympathetic interview panel for the Ballymaloe Cooking School when she unwisely makes a tatty tart with bananas, young girl Mary (voice: Mia O’Connor) finds she has an ally in her granny (voice: Rosaleen Linehan) who gives the judges a friendly talking to when they reject her granddaughter. The girl can always come back next time. She and granny are driving home on a minor coastal road and granny is refusing to talk about her own childhood – apparently there was an incident involving a dog and a well – when granny swerves to avoid a dog and dents the car. Mary doesn’t like dogs, although she’s a caring child who stopped granny accidentally running over a hedgehog earlier.

Granny has been coughing all day. With the news that Mary’s bestie Ava (voice: Amelie Metacalf) is soon be leaving as her dad has got a job in England, it’s not a great time for the young girl, and it gets worse, when she discovers her gran has a fever and her mum calls an ambulance. It might appear a routine case of the ’flu, but it looks like granny may not be coming out of hospital. Dr Patel (voice: Paul Tylak) has run some tests and wants to keep her in for observation.

It was always her gran who encouraged her at cookery: the bland cooking of her mother (voice: Sharon Horgan) is an endurance test, while her dad (voice: Brendan Gleeson) and brothers are frequently out at football games (which we never see). Mary is a self-starter, determined to put the hours to learn the craft of cookery. But her beloved gran’s condition weighs heavily on her mind, and she takes a walk in the woods, where she meets a young woman named Tansey (voice: Charlene McKenna), who seems to understand her problems and asks Mary to give her love to her granny when she sees her.

Later, her mother becomes worried about her daughter’s imaginary friend and has the girl checked out by the hospital’s resident psychiatrist. The explanation is that Tansey, who later demonstrates to both mother and daughter the ability to disappear and reappear at will, is actually the ghost of granny’s mum, Mary’s great-grandmother. Mary must now come to terms with the fact that her granny is dying.

Based on a story by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments, Alan Parker, 1991) this is a highly original and enjoyable story built around female characters. While it might have worked fine as a live action drama, the decision to make it in animation serves the story and its multi-layered characters well. The voice acting is distinctive, and the character designs (by Peter de Sève) and physical movement just as captivating.

Innovative effects animation work includes subtly dappled light falling on characters as they walk through a forest, and a family car animated by CG so that its movements (along bumpy country lanes and smoother minor town streets) feel mechanical and automated as opposed to the more natural movements of the hand-animated humans (the film was storyboarded by Peter Orlandi). Simple visuals, like a meandering hedgehog which appears very early on, also prove highly effective.

Dream sequences by animator Regina Pessoa show Mary’s subconscious struggling with the childhood experience her gran has described with the dog and the well, rendered arrestingly as white lines scratched on a dark background. There are also completely different flashbacks rendered with a light feel as brown lines on white background by animator Marco Zanoni. Both these elements provide a welcome contrast to the overall feel of the main narrative which is rendered, as 2D animation often is, via areas bounded by drawn lines then filled in with colour.

None of this technical execution ever gets in the way of the storytelling, though, enhancing it rather than attracting attention to itself. There is much to admire here. In the end, you come away with a sense of family through four generations of women, not always harmonious in the short term (the headstrong Mary throws a tantrum at one point and is confined to her room by her mum) but ultimately a place of safety, nurture and community, albeit with rough edges where issues of life and death must be confronted, but life nevertheless must go on. It’s a long way from your typical animated feature, and it’s attempting something very different from the norm, which it pulls off admirably on its own unique terms. A movie well worth tracking down.

A Greyhound of a Girl is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, June 28th.


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