The best animated shorts have a unique way of balancing absurdity with emotional honesty. Chez Moi finds plenty of humour in introducing a sharp-dressed birdman into domestic routines. It embraces the oddness of the bird’s motions, never fully anthropomorphizing it, but instead leaving it in an odd, alien in-between space. Playing up this absurdity adds to the film’s unpredictability, but it also gets at a real emotional truth. As the title states, this newcomer is something foreign brought into “my home,” and the inhuman portrayal is a painful metaphor for just how difficult this new relationship is for the young boy to understand. It isn’t natural, and he simply doesn’t understand why he should have to respect it.

It also helps that every element of the film, from the character art to the colour palette to the sound design is just beautifully conceived. Mai Nguyen’s animation strikes precisely the right tone for the film’s mix of emotions. It also oddly recalls another 2014 release, Sean Buckelew’s Another, which similarly explores family dynamics (among other topics) through an unexpected intruder, although that film goes even further into the uncanny. There’s something about inserting an animal into a human drama that highlights the base emotions involved, and the constructed nature of the roles. Consider this a recommendation for a double feature.


Chez moi/ My Home

dir: Phuong Mai Nguyen

syn:  Short animation film directed by Phuong Mai Nguyen, written by Phuong Mai Nguyen et Patricia Valeix 

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