3 Nov 2021
Beautiful is an emotional and heart-wrenching short film that viewers will struggle to watch through tear-filled eyes. It’s a powerful piece of work – and all the more remarkable that it was directed, written, animated and scored by its multi-talented originator Mulan Fu, who was inspired to create the film from real-life experiences.
The film is a short, animated tale of a young girl growing up with her mother. We follow the pair at different stages of their lives – initially when the girl is very young and idolises her mother, and later in life as a teen when her mother is in the grips of a battle against breast cancer. As her mother’s condition deteriorates, the girl comes to realise the true meaning of love for her parent, and must reckon with the prospect of loss.
The story is told through a series of snapshots from the girl’s life and memories, and lucid, symbolic imagery which perfectly encapsulates both the joyous times in the mother and daughter’s lives, as well as the emotional trauma each undergo. Director Mulan Fu does not shy away from the most harrowing realities of cancer, and the brutal developments of the mother’s battle contrast strikingly with the cartoonish animation style. These difficult scenes will provoke varying reactions in viewers, dependent on their own personal experiences. But the care the director takes in portraying them means no-one will be immune from an emotive response.
The animation itself is vibrant – mixing an anime-style with more a traditional western children’s look which brings the family to life and imbues them with character. The gorgeous stylings are all the more impactful in the aforementioned scenes which portray the mother’s struggle, and the ethereal symbolism becomes acutely disturbing in a style usually associated with wonderment and cheer. Yet some of the highlights are the simplest moments – such as the young girl trying to fit in her mother’s shoes, or the pair bonding over lunch.
Further life is brought to the film through its musical score, with a gentle piano riff accompanying the story throughout. The music weaves and dances alongside the imagery, and becomes mournful and tragic as the film progresses. The continuous piece is key for immersion – at times leading the film itself as much as it is crafted around it. The personalisation and synchronicity are clearly the result of the passion and dedication from the director, who clearly left a piece of her soul in the film.
For a 5-minute short, Beautiful is a film that will create lasting memories for viewers and leave all but the most stone-hearted an emotional wreck. But beyond the intensely personal story, is an excellent demonstration of coping with trauma and bereavement, and the importance of parental love – even in the face of unbearable difficulties.