Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Written by: Adrian Molina & Matthew Aldrich
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor
Even when they may not be perfect, the power of family can leave such an impact on the development of anyone. They are people you do not get to choose to be related to with the blood connection you hold. Coco dives into the world of familial relationships, the way generations react to what has occurred in the past, and does it in a way that will cause tears to fall from your eyes. I can almost guarantee it.
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) lives with his large family in Santa Cecilia, Mexico. As he dreams to be a musician, it has been barred in their household by his grandmother (Renée Victor). Their family has a rough history with musicians, but instead, Miguel is pushed to get into the shoe business of his family. After rebelling against his family, Miguel finds himself in the afterlife on El Dia de Los Muertos.
Whenever I reflect on the power of Coco, I always return to the word, representation. Its story structure has been seen before, but not in the form of the characters involved and the potency of its meaning. This story allows for a whole population of people to see themselves on screen in a way they may not have experienced before. It can be overwhelming because this film perfectly captures the power of family, especially what it means within the Latinx community. This understanding appears in the talent behind the production and voicing the characters. The love overflows the cup of creativity given, and it forever will remain my favorite Pixar film because of it.
The relatability of this story feels poignant for any Latinx person, even if the story takes place in Mexico and during a holiday not celebrated by everyone in this ethnic group. Even then all of the little moments resonate and become beautiful reference points, including the grandmother giving far too much food and the throwing of a flip flop in moments of anger. The authenticity of these moments allows this feature to become incredibly real even with its wonderfully fantastical moments.
Those fantastical moments get paired with jaw-dropping animation, which Pixar has never unleashed before. This particularly gets displayed when Miguel arrives at the Land of the Dead. The sheer amount of detail in creating the bridge and the structures in this incredibly vibrant community becomes a feast for the eyes. When Miguel first lays his eyes on this majestic animated creation, we see it for ourselves in all of its colorful beauty. So much of the richness of the story comes in the care of the animation and how each character looks as compared to the generation they come from. Once again, it feels so authentic, which surprises me, as this product comes from a company owned by Disney.
With all of the flashy animation unveiled in this feature, it all remains grounded in Miguel’s story of understanding the power of family. As mentioned before, no family is perfect but each member has the ability to mold and shift perspectives which can lead to progress. In Miguel’s family, music has become outlawed because of Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, who left his wife and child in order to pursue his dreams as a musician. This left Miguel’s great-great-grandmother to raise the child alone and she did not allow this setback to slow her down, as she created the business the family continues to excel in producing. Families tend to get stuck on certain mindsets and traditions, and it took someone like Miguel to try and shift the way they think of music and how to not let the pain from decades ago continue to have reverberations far into the future. It allows anyone watching this to have the opportunity to reflect on their family and what things they have completely written off because of a negative instance generations ago.
In an effort to be transparent, a specialness of this film hit me in a personal way because of the relationship I had with my grandmother and how it parallels the one of Miguel and his great-grandmother Coco. The beautiful connection he has with her truly hit home for me and seeing this film years after she passed put me in a place where watching this film will leave me drowning in tears from the impact. I find it difficult to even write about it without my eyes starting to swell, but the moments shared between them penetrated my soul to remind me of a level of connection I have cherished for my entire life. Music remains a part of it, which explains the importance of the story, but a moment towards the end perfectly sums it all up in a tear-jerking manner.
Just as Miguel loves music, this film puts forth a selection of excellent songs done both in English and Spanish to celebrate life and those who have left us. These songs have such vibrancy and utilize those already done within Mexico while also adding a more modern presentation to them. All of them have a level of poignancy in the story but the most heartbreaking one comes in “Remember Me.” Rightfully won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, as it has the power to produce tears almost instantaneously. Simple in its composition, it carries such power because anyone can relate to it. We’ve all been in those circumstances when we’re away from those we love for moments and long to be back with them. In the context of the story, it lands with even more emotional heft and if it does not produce tears then we need to have a serious discussion.
I unabashedly adore Coco because it represents more than just a film for me. It shows the power of representation on screen. The freshness should be an indictment on an industry frequently supported by Latinx audiences and rarely do they get such beautifully representational works such as this film. This feature film allows for a positive conversation on death and what it means to honor those who came before us in a meaningful manner. The emotional heft of the feature cannot be questioned and its relatability to anyone with a strong connection to family makes this something anyone can watch with any group of people they call loved ones