It took over four years for Latvian director Gints Zilbalodis, who single-handedly animated, scored, edited and produced, to complete Away, and his painstaking effort can be seen in nearly every frame. Dialogue-free, this is a film which encourages reflection, relying entirely on images and its soundtrack to pull you in. There are nods to the more surreal elements of classic Miyazaki, but video games are also an influence here, with works such as Shadow of the Colossus, Ico and Journey all reflected in the universe that Zilbalodis has built.
Away opens with a young boy – who will be our nameless protagonist throughout the film – who wakes up hanging from a parachute harness in the middle of a verdant forest. Beyond a little bird he befriends early on, and a pack of identical black cats guarding a natural geyser, the only other inhabitant seems to be a giant ephemeral monster that won’t stop pursuing our hero until it swallows him whole. With the discovery of a map and a motorcycle, he must decide whether or not to continue his journey. Will the mysterious creature continue to follow him? Will he find an ultimate destination in which he can be free?