I may have a little bit of pride in the fact that it takes quite a bit to impress me when it comes to movies; however, when it comes to the world of animation, I’m rather simple-minded. Even the most dull stories are fascinating when you start to think like a child. I think I’d still say The Lion King is one of the best movies ever made (the first one only, of course). Fair warning: Orion and the Dark is especially effective if you’re a daughter who deeply admires her father and doesn’t understand how to express it enough. I’m not sure if I’m exaggerating or simply taking this film too subjectively, but I did find it soulful for this exact reason. Orion and the Dark follows the story of a young boy named Orion, who happens to be anxious about everything in the world. While it seems at first that Orion’s biggest fear is inevitable death, which may come for him from anywhere at any time, whatever he is doing, the real winner is darkness. Orion isn’t just afraid of the dark, his fear of nothingness lends a pencil to the art of his imagination that could even make a fearless adventurer scramble from his pursuit of adrenaline.
Now, I’m sure you’re going to want to say that there are a dozen films about fears and how to overcome them. Every second person you meet wants to preach about how you can get over them by becoming confident and self-assured. I don’t think anybody who actually has anxiety has ever believed such a thing. What I found most fascinating about this film is how real Orion’s fears feel and just how wholesome the effect of the film’s message is. I could have just said I’m a 27-year-old child who felt seen while watching this movie and ended my review there, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In the film, Dark is personified as an entity, as are Insomnia, Sleep, Dreams, Quiet, and Light as well. Somewhere in the middle of the film, quiet and dreams argue that they deserve to be seen and heard too, which is a line that somehow spoke to me the most. I suppose that as adults, the thing that we miss the most about childhood is the feeling of being fearless. “Oh, it’s a fire; let me go touch it.” “That dog looks like he’ll make a good playmate; let me grab his tail,” and I guess as we start to come into adolescence, this completely fades away. Of course, not everyone is afraid of public speaking, making friends, talking to people, and asking for help, just like not everyone is afraid of spiders, snakes, and ghosts. There are those who are confident and those who face their fears with certainity, but what about the rest of us who can’t find that push within ourselves? After watching this movie, I’d like to think that’s where imagination comes into play.
Orion and the Dark is not just a film about a single little boy; it’s also a multi-generational saga, which makes it even more admirable. I suppose it’s the many hidden messages for adults in this film that have me liking this film more than your average 11-year-old, the actual target audience of this film. There’s even a stupid joke about “Sundance,” and I was caught in the middle of rolling my eyes and laughing at the same time. The pursuit of facing your fears is endless and exhausting, but somehow watching this film makes you feel like it’s a journey you want to find yourself on. I’m not going to lie; I wish I had thought of this stuff myself. I mean, the dialogue in this film is priceless, and my cheeks hurts from smiling so much. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some award-winning animated film with impeccable character design and extraordinary animation; however, to me, it’s a memorable one simply because of how much I can relate to so many moments in the film.
A primary focus in Orion and the Dark is the relationship between a grown-up Orion and his daughter. The film does such a fine job of depicting their relationship as something admirable and aspirational. If you get the chance, watch it with your dad; I promise it’ll be worth it (if he’s willing to sit through an animated film instead of a game of tennis, that is). I suppose if you were someone who liked bedtime stories, you’d definitely enjoy the swerving nature of this story, which simultaneously gives you a feeling of “anything is possible” and “sometimes reality is the real myth.” What I mean by that is that a lot of our fears stem from stories we create about outcomes that are sometimes impossible. How will we know if we never try? This is something Dark portrays pretty darn well in this film.
Should you watch Orion and the Dark with your kids? Yes! I’d say it’s the perfect opportunity to explore their imagination and pick their brains as curious adults for a change. It’s really not easy or realistic to get over one’s fears by simply facing them and forgetting them. With Orion and the Dark, Dark illuminates the idea that our biggest fears help us get through the world in our best versions. What I mean is, what you’re afraid of makes you a better person. Maybe? Clearly, I need some Dark in my life to understand myself a little bit better, but until then, I’ll satisfy myself by occasionally enjoying a film like Orion and the Dark occasionally.
I’ve realized this review may come across as quite subjective, so if you’re wondering, the film is an hour and thirty minutes and moves at the speed of light. Not to say it’s because it’s so entertaining, but because there are some pacing issues and it’s a little bit overwhelming how much can fit into an hour and a bit. The dialogue and writing are definitely the best parts, and the character design almost seems like a failed rip-off of Inside Out, kind of like when you try to copy your friend’s homework but accidentally draw an amoeba instead of a neuron to make it look different. They did try, I guess—maybe just not enough. I’d give Orion and the Dark 3.5 stars out of 5, but on a good day, it’s a 4 star film simply because of how it made me feel. It’s like a warm and cozy hug from Dark himself!