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‘I Lost My Body’ review: darkly comic romance about a severed hand is one of the year’s best animated films

Heartbreaking tragedy blends beautiful animation with witty silent comedy

A work of immense imagination and macabre creativity, Jérémy Clapin’s animated feature debut I Lost My Body tells emotional accounts of loss with a morbid sense of humour. The film follows a disembodied hand, curiously named ‘Rosalie’ and gendered as a woman, as she escapes a medical lab and journeys back to her owner, the orphaned 20-something Naoufel. Throughout, flashes of memories from Naoufel’s childhood and the events leading up to the dismemberment are intertwined with the strange, impossible problems that an autonomous hand might encounter in the streets of Paris.

Adapted by Clapin and Amélie screenwriter Guillaume Laurant from his 2006 novel Happy Hand, the narrative unfolds as a sort-of tragic romance between the severed mit and its former owner. In one scene, Rosalie the hand pauses her frantic, perilous journey to listen to a man playing the piano. Though she needs to escape his flat, she instead sits and fantasises of being serenaded by Naoufel. Like him, Rosalie craves connection to people – as she is severed from Naoufel’s body, he is cut off from almost everything and everyone around him, dazed and distant as he drifts through an unfulfilling existence.

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Elsewhere, another relationship – this time between Naoufel and Gabrielle – takes centre stage. Our protagonist falls immediately for Gabrielle over the intercom as he botches a pizza delivery, simply because she’s the first person to treat him as someone who is visible after a lifetime spent with an emotionally absent adoptive parent and an antagonistic, womanising sibling. Although they share a charming meet cute,  Naoufel’s advances slowly become creepy and invasive. Eventually, he tracks down his mystery crush and follows her back to her uncle’s workshop, where he subsequently becomes employed. Thankfully, this isn’t something that escapes judgement or critique, though Naoufel is seen as more foolish than he is harmful, compelled by a desire for a meaningful connection with just about anybody.

Throughout all of these moments, Dan Levy’s score evokes painful longing – a beautiful and dramatic theme played over memories shared by Naoufel and the disembodied hand. The storyboarding is immaculate, comprised of softly sketched lines and clean, colourful 3D spaces. As a result, the film feels appropriately tactile for one that evokes connections between memory and touch.

I Lost My Body is at its most creative and enthralling (and even strangely emotional) when Clapin creates new dangers for the hand to improvise its way out of. At different points, Rosalie comes under threat from pigeons, rats, dogs and the mere act of crossing a road. The film stumbles somewhat in its depiction of the self-destructive, closed-off human protagonist, but still triumphs as a strange and compelling tragicomedy about moving on, the struggle of forging new connections and carving out your own fate.

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Details

  • Director: Jérémy Clapin
  • Starring: Hakim Faris, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick d’Assumçao
  • Release Date: 22 November 2019 (Netflix: 29 November)
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