A severed hand wakes up in a lab and makes a perilous journey across the streets and sewers of Paris to return to its body, a young man named Naoufel (Dev Patel). In flashbacks, we learn how the hand came to be severed, and the love story behind it.
If you’ve ever wanted Thing from The Addams Family to star in his own emotional romantic drama, I Lost My Body could be your film. It’s a gorgeously animated curio, and essentially a two-hander: part love story, part five-fingered chase film, flitting between two timelines. In flashback, one half explains how Naoufel (voiced by Dev Patel in the English dub, Hakim Faris in the original French version), the orphaned son of loving immigrant parents, went from idealist child to morose teenager to lovesick young adult to having his hand accidentally amputated.
I Lost My Body
It’s the scenes where the hand traverses a terrifying cityscape of its own accord that are most effective. We watch as the walking extremity, scuttling like a crab through the nooks and crannies of Paris, attempts to return to its owner, brought to life by stunning character animation. The hand is brilliantly anthropomorphised. At first, it stumbles around as if in a daze; later, it seems to sigh.
This dramatic physical journey, taking in urban rodents, public transport, frozen lakes and discarded tin cans, is mirrored by a more internal journey in the flashback scenes. Naoufel finds his dreams don’t quite lead him where he expected, and he’s met in life with tragedy, rejection and heartbreak. Eventually he ends up working a miserable job as a pizza delivery boy — which leads him to Gabrielle (here voiced by Alia Shawkat, with Victoire Du Bois taking the role in the French version), a librarian and only slightly creepy object of Naoufel’s affection.
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The budding romance that emerges is sweetly realised but patience-testingly mawkish — the film is co-written by Amélie scribe Guillaume Laurant, which should give you a sense of the kind of heart-on-sleeve mushiness you can expect — and where half of the film feels thrillingly original and could only have been convincingly achieved in animation, the other half feels over-familiar and ill-suited to the form, bogged down by teenage pontificating and an absence of pace. On the other hand, its ingenious and just plain odd method of storytelling is enough to make it worth feeling out.
If it’s slightly hampered by a generic love story and pie-in-the-sky teenage pontificating, I Lost My Body should still rank among the year’s most original and peculiar films. Hands down.