Isle of Chair (2020) Short Film Review

Updated: Mar 31


Directed by: Ivyy Chen

Written by: Ivyy Chen

Short Film Review by: Emily Davison

On a secluded island, a gentle white giant wanders, righting fallen chairs when they fall down in this poetic animated short.

Isle of Chair (2020), directed by Ivyy Chen (Taiwan born animation director and illustrator now based in London) is a difficult film to do justice to in one summary statement. This quiet, sombre piece brought to fruition through 2D animation is a wonderful achievement in visual storytelling with an inspiring message based on the filmmaker’s ‘tiny addiction’ to chairs. The film has gained much critical attention with its screenings at several film festivals across the world, such as the London International Animation Festival and Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival. It has also won Best Animation at the Eurasia International Film Festival and was an award winner at the Indie Short Fest.

The film’s visual aesthetic is simple but mesmerising in its peaceful ambient setting with engaging animation highlighting monochrome colours and pastel hues, all adding to its imaginative charm. Although the short’s premise is, on the surface, simple and perhaps a little ambiguous and bizarre in that we follow a giant silent creature on a seemingly abandoned island as it fixes the position of various chairs, Chen invites us to consider philosophical, very human themes of mental health and isolation.

Isle of Chair (2020) Short Film screenshot

It is not immediately obvious on a first watch, but many interpretations can be drawn from the compelling images and symbols presented onscreen, such as a kitchen table with a single overhead lamp and no people, or a chair that has fallen down in a sudden storm. The opening quote by Haruki Murakami offers insight into the film’s abstract ideologies and invites viewers to contemplate their own views on mental health and what it means to live in a society amongst other beings. The change in tone is translated through bright colours dissolving into dark blues and greys, optimism changing to depression as a gloomy presence looms over the island. The film does not linger on this side of things for too long, however, evoking a beautiful message of there always being a light at the end of the tunnel and this optimism is particularly relevant when reflecting on the current pandemic we are all facing.

Sarah Playford’s original score compliments the film’s simplicity with a tender presence that offers a whimsical, childlike quality to the animation. Mei Yi Ting Chang’s sound design incorporates an atmospheric, calming presence with naturalistic cues to sounds of a gentle breeze or the turning of a page and a pen rolling across the floor. Both fit perfectly with the film’s lovely aesthetic.

Isle of Chair is a stunning example of the power of animation and its ability to convey provocative themes and create serene imagery which reflects the world we live in. Chen’s artistic vision and passion for the simple pleasures in life are captured elegantly onscreen and all of these elements make this short essential viewing.


Isle of Chair (2020) Short Film Trailer: