STOPMOTION (2023). Review by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Acorn Media International. Blu Ray/DVD/Digital 1st July

Ella Blake (Aisling Franciosi) is a stop-motion animator who lives in the shadow of her more famous mother Suzanne (Stella Gonet) whip is both demanding and manipulative. Ella is currently helping her Mum to complete her latest film, as she is now unable to carry out the delicate work required to bring inanimate objects to life, due to arthritis. “She’s the brains – I’m the hands”.

When her mother suffers a stroke and is hospitalised, Ella decides to move out, and rents out an empty apartment to try and make a film of her own; to finds her own voice. But she struggles to start without the presence of her Mum to guide her.

Then she meets a young girl (Caoilinn Springall), who remains unnamed – to which she explains what stop-motion is and that she is making a film. “It’s a bit boring”, says the new friend, pronouncing she should make a “better” story – and proceeds to tell of a young girl lost in the woods, which Ella starts to bring to fruition.

The tale is rather freaky and weird, about the coming of a frightening figure called the ash man. Who is this junior storyteller? Why is she encouraging Ella to use real meat in her work and then a dead fox? As things progress, Ella becomes obsessed with making this strange narrative, full of hallucinatory imagery, even as she seems to be losing her mind.

Fantasy and reality begin to crossover – mixing live action and animation to great effect. Robert Morgan, in his feature film directorial debut, has crafted an unusual and compelling psychological drama which goes full on visceral horror in it’s finale. Coming from an animation background, as he does, means the stop frame is exemplary. Franciosi is excellent in the lead, capturing well her characters slow slip into madness.

Having premiered on Shudder, this is now available on disc for you to enjoy.

Steve Kirkham

3 stars
Interviews with star Aisling Franciosi and director Robert Morgan; Behind the scenes.