A Year in Shorts Day 219: "One Small Step"
Space. The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the… wait. Shit. I’ve already done something based on the Star Trek intro. And this film justifies its use even less than the last one did. Believe it or not, it can be difficult to come up with a new way to introduce these things for over two hundred days in a row. And you know, I’m getting close to finals week so cut me some slack, alright? I’ve got a lot going on. Anyway, let’s talk about One Small Step. It’s about space! Kind of.
Directed by Andrew Chesworth and Andy Pontillas, One Small Step is the inaugural film of the Chinese-American TAIKO studios. Released in 2018 it tells the story of Luna, a girl living with her father who dreams of being an astronaut. (The girl does, I mean; her father may want to be an astronaut, but if so he keeps it to himself.) The short follows Luna as she grows from a young kid to a young adult, and all the heartwarming shenanigans and heartbreaking turns of events that transpire along the way. It's a fairly simple story (it has to be, as it's told without dialogue), but what it may lack in narrative complexity. Regular readers of this blog will no that, for reasons which I'm sure make sense to someone, I'm a sucker for a good father/daughter story, and One Small Step is particularly good. You may want to have some tissues ready.
To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen any other films made by TAIKO Studios, but if One Small Step is any indication, they certainly have a bright future ahead of them. This is a gorgeous film, both narratively and visually, especially for a debut short. A lot of films these days like to use computer animation to replicate a 2-D aesthetic, but One Small Step does it particularly well, capturing the warmth and expressiveness provided by hand drawn animation while still allowing for a greater freedom of motion. That is, as you might imagine, incredibly important for a film like this, which relies on its characters' expressions to sell the emotional beats. But thanks to the talented team behind the film, they all do, helped along by Steven Horner's score, which utilizes variations on the same melody to provide the film with its simple but powerful sound. And I really have to give a shoutout to this film's use of color and lighting. In a time where even our superhero films are desaturated, it's good to know we'll always have animation to fall back on.
I have often felt that animation is the purest form of cinema, and films like One Small Step perfectly demonstrate why. And while it didn't win the Oscar that year, it's hard to complain. After all, One Small Step lost to Pixar's Bao, and is there a more esteemed competition to lose to than that?
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