Flee (2021) Review

Animation suits the documentary format so well that its surprising that more movies of this medium don’t use it. It is especially fitting when a person is recounting incredible events of their life. Rather than recreations, which documentaries like The Thin Blue Line have used to varying amounts of success, Flee recreates the incredible story it is telling in full animation.

That is the other elements of Flee which makes it so successful. The animation is not used for part of the movie but for all of it. So rather than just use the animation for the moments where central figure Amin recounts his tale of escaping war torn Afghanistan and his struggles with his sexuality, the movie animates it all. This includes the talking heads and moments set in the present, showing why Amin feels the need to tell his story now and how pivotal sharing his secret past is. This is clever because if it was a mix of both, one may over-shadow the other. The animation may be more engaging than the interview footage or perhaps vice-versa. Here the animation is the format and there are no distractions or takeaways from the incredible story.

It is an incredible story. A life spent hiding from the military, failed attempts to cross vast oceans to safety and the harrowing experience of being a refugee, combined with hiding a sexuality that Amin believes his family won’t accept and knows that his home country will condemn. You are riveted throughout and find yourself willing Amin and his family to succeed in escaping their situation.

It treads a fine balance as well. Neither of the stories, be it the escape of the title or the sexuality sub-plot, are done gratuitously. There are harrowing moments and some points where you’ll feel fear but this is another reason why the animation is the best format. Much is alluded to but not shown, with the description of events being as effective as if they showed the events in detail.

Flee is an important story. At a time when events around the world make refugees a common aspect of today’s society, seeing the way that countries in the past have treated these people is a harsh wake-up call. This is particularly effective when you focus on the aspects of Amin’s story which show what it took for people to escape their homeland and the horrors that could occur if they stayed.

Overall, Flee is a fantastic documentary which makes great use of its animated format. Amin’s story is an important and engrossing one which deserves to be heard, particularly because both his experience as a refugee and his struggles with his homosexuality are aspects which are still relevant today.

Rating – 5!

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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