Slamdance Film Review: Unicorn Boy
Director: Matt Kiel
Embracing the strangeness within ourselves is the only thing that can truly set us free from our own self doubt. The practice of loving yourself can be a harrowing journey to go on alone. Matt Kiel’s put their own vulnerabilities on blast in Slamdance’s Unicorn Boy and created a visual anthem for the LGBTQ+ community.
An impressive feat of animation that took Kiel over 10 years to complete, Unicorn Boy is a wild ride of gender and self identity set to a backdrop of a freak-adelic fantasy world. Matty, a down-on-their-luck artist, is going through a break up when they are swept into an alternate unicorn dimension. After realizing that unicorns are in danger from a dark force, Matty must make the difficult journey toward enlightenment in order to save this strange new world.
Each frame was drawn lovingly by Kiel and comes together as a true spectacle of imagination. The art style is incomparable and switches between realistic and hyper-stylized mediums to embolden the movie’s main theme of self denial and subsequent discovery. Specifically, the use of “found footage” that opens and closes the film brings it all together and creates a sense of camaraderie with the cast.
The film is full of genuine moments that the actors manage to bring to life with a sense of ease. The jokes were born from casual and authentic human experiences, breathing life into the characters who are going through mundane things such as getting rid of a skunk infestation or attending their first yoga class. Some of the characters felt very shrill and childish to me, but I think it added a Gen-Z flair to the humor that embraced the generation that values individuality above all else.
The film is unabashedly queer, with the day being saved because of unicorns literally barfing rainbows in a climactic moment of glorious self expression. Through the veil of barfing unicorns and candy obsessed creatures, Kiel intimately shares their own experience of discovering their gender identity through heartbreak. This creates an extraordinarily intimate look into the mind of a human in crisis, allowing you to project your own psychological horrors onto the protagonist.
Unicorn Boy was a unique romp through a fantasy world and a deep exploration into Matt Kiel’s psyche. The film was a loving portrait of heartbreak, friendship and self love accompanied by beautiful animation. Slamdance never fails to find unique stories to tell, and this was no exception. –Unicorn Boy
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