U Serge Elissalde & Grégoire Solotareff

U Serge Elissalde & Grégoire Solotareff
This peculiar, whimsical animated feature from France is a welcome alternative to inane, American princess movies; it’s a fairy tale that is magical rather than pretty, melancholy rather than sparkly. Mona is a princess who lives in a castle by the sea; she’s tormented by a pair of slovenly rats who treat her as their servant. One day, sobbing in the kitchen, she is visited by a charming unicorn, the titular U. Mona and U soon become best friends and Mona grows healthy and happy. When a band of travelling musicians move into a pistachio tree in the woods near the castle, Mona and U, and even the miserable rats, embrace their joyful lifestyle. But before long, Mona falls in love with Kulka, the son of the musicians, and U must leave her forever. It’s a bit hard to place this film: it’s too sophisticated for younger kids, too unicorn-y/princess-y for older kids, with too obvious a plot for adults. The real joys of the film are musical and visual. French singer-songwriter Sanseverino, who also voices the cat Kulka, provides a surprising and delightful Gitane soundtrack. But what really makes this film special is the richly coloured and textured animation. The extras are disappointing: just the trailer and an image gallery. (Mongrel Media)