Stopmotion Review – A Character Study You Will Hardly Forget

Stopmotion Review FandomWire
Stopmotion Review FandomWire
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Stopmotion releases February 23, 2024.


Personally, of all the diverse existing animation styles, stop motion has always been one of the most fascinating. In fact, one of my highest ratings this century belongs to a stop-motion film, Kubo and the Two Strings. If this fact alone would catch my attention, mixing this type of animation with horror, also one of my favorite genres, sets expectations at a clearly higher level. Stopmotion marks the feature debut of filmmaker Robert Morgan, who also co-writes the script with Robin King (Mnemophrenia), and stars Aisling Franciosi (The Nightingale).

Franciosi plays Ella Blake, a stop-motion animator who gradually begins to lose control of her life when her mother, a filmmaker and master of her art, finds herself unable to finish her last movie, placing the responsibility on Ella to complete her work. When a nameless little girl appears and offers ideas on how to improve the story, Stopmotion embarks on a disturbing, tough-to-watch narrative about extreme obsessions, the incessant pursuit of validation, and creative and personal freedom.


Stopmotion Critique

© Samuel Dole / IFC Films

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This is an incredibly complicated film to recommend to the vast majority of the general public. Stopmotion is one of those typical movies with immense thematic and technical value that tends to alienate mainstream audiences while creating a cult community due to its unconventional storytelling and lack of direct, basic exposition about what’s happening or what the protagonist is thinking/feeling. Whether the eventual reception will follow this theory or not is a matter of ‘wait and see’, but I was thoroughly surprised and satisfied with a film that will endure in the memory of any viewer, for better or worse.

Stopmotion holds a story with several complex layers, being that type of movie that gets better the more time we spend thinking and delving into the numerous topics it addresses. At its core, it’s born from formulaic foundations previously seen in cinema: a film within a film, art that consumes its artist, fiction mixed with reality… these bases serve only as starting points for a detailed character study about a young woman searching for her own voice.

Imagination is greater when we are children, and Stopmotion takes this phrase in a very literal yet predictable manner, but with a superb narrative impact. Ella is an artist who, for all intents and purposes, finds herself trapped by the assertive presence of her mother, becoming a mere puppet in her control. When she frees herself from these strings, her sense of creativity explodes, and part of her new fictional story blends with her real life, including the intimate problems that haunt her. Morgan and King explore in depth the obsessive dependence of an artist on their art and how the hunt for validation – from ourselves or others – can lead to devastatingly tragic conclusions.


Obviously, there’s a kind of homage to the animation style that gives the movie its title. The combination of live-action and stop motion is impressive on its own, but the film dedicates quite a bit of its short runtime to demonstrating the insane level of detail that characterizes this fantastic medium of storytelling. From moving the ‘armature’ of the puppets mere millimeters to building sets or assembling hundreds of eyes, Stopmotion displays in various ways the exhaustive work behind movies like this. It’s always shocking how much time and skill are required to create a world and characters that look and feel so real. However, the technical highlight is shared by two departments: sound and makeup.

© Samuel Dole / IFC Films

Stopmotion is, by some margin, one of the most disgusting films I’ve seen – and listened to – in recent years. I don’t consider myself a viewer who has trouble seeing blood, cuts on the human body, or hearing those squishy sounds as if we were crushing or spouting something – quite the contrary, I find a strange pleasure in this type of cinematic entertainment – but Morgan gave his team ‘carte blanche’, and I admit there are moments so repugnant that I couldn’t resist looking away a couple of times or tensing every muscle in my body at a chilling sound. Take this as a warning, sensitive viewers.

The score from Lola de la Mata is super effective in generating an uncomfortable, torturous atmosphere, never letting the viewers rest. Stopmotion also involves a certain mystery about everything that’s going on, but unlike other similar narratives, it never falls into the trap of trying to force a shock or twist out of nowhere, following the path it has to follow while focusing on the natural thematic and character development. Franciosi is brilliant – somewhat surprised she hasn’t yet obtained bigger opportunities – as is Caoilinn Springall (The Midnight Sky), who shows outstanding maturity for an actress of only 11 years old.


Coming to an end here, I maintain the same difficulties about whom I should recommend Stopmotion to. It’s a 90-minute movie but with a complex, heavy narrative that takes time to captivate initially and, after understanding what it’s aiming for, becomes rather repetitive, although it perfectly concludes the tragic arc of the protagonist. Emotionally, it lacks a greater connection with the viewer and, for this reason, I don’t foresee great commercial success with the general public. I hope to be roundly mistaken, as Morgan deserves many more opportunities after this first venture into feature filmmaking.

In Conclusion

Stopmotion stands out as an unforgettable, challenging film, intertwining the art of stop-motion animation with the depth of psychological horror in a narrative as complex as it is disturbing. Although its dense story and unconventional approach are elements distant from the tastes of the general audience, it’s a testament to creative power and the exploration of meaningful themes. The disgusting makeup and repugnant practical effects combined with an equally unsettling sound design, as well as the intriguing study of an artist’s obsession and the search for validation, create a truly memorable cinematic experience. Noteworthy remarks on the exceptional performances of Aisling Franciosi and Caoilinn Springall.



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Written by Manuel São Bento

Articles Published: 47

Portuguese critic with a tremendous passion for cinema, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who has stopped watching trailers since 2017.

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