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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a lovely film.

"One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things."

By 'Vive AkughaPublished about a year ago 9 min read
Image credit: Screenshot from Apple TV on YouTube

This film won a 2023 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film and a 2023 BAFTA for British Animated Short. So, let's look at it. The 2022 animated film of 34 minutes is adapted from the 2019 book of the same name by artist and illustrator, Charlie Mackesy. It is an Apple Tv + original film starring Jude Coward Nicoll as the boy, Tom Hollander as the mole, Idris Elba as the fox, and, Gabriel Byrne as the Horse. This film is a refreshing dose of wholesomeness. There are numerous beautiful moments and quotes that extend grace in a much-needed and understanding way through this story of a boy, mole, fox and horse finding their way.

Image credit: Screenshot from Waterstones on YouTube

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The lost boy wanders in the snow-covered forest until he meets the mole that notices a cake and excitedly moves closer to it. With a closer view, he finds out it's a tree and feels silly but the boy supports the mole by saying it's a lovely tree and it kind of looked like a cake. The mole deduces that they have no cake and the boy's lost. He said an old mole told him, "When you're lost, follow the river, and it will take you home.". As the boy saw no river, the mole tells him, he could probably see one from the tree branch. Trying to climb it, he mistakenly falls some snow on the mole. The boy and mole consistently apologized to each other showing their characters. He cleans the snow off the mole and puts him on the branch while he makes his way to join him.

On the branch, he still can't see anything. The mole asks, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and he says "Kind" which the mole reacts to saying "Hmm". This is important because more kind people giving people allowances and being courteous would be beneficial. The mole says "Nothing beats Kindness", as no matter who you are or what you end up doing, being kind is paramount over everything else in life. A little kindness does so much to the person giving it and the person receiving it, it changes their day, makes a memory and makes them happy. Kindness is peaceful as the mole says, "It sits quietly beyond all things.".

We pan from behind them to see the "beauty we need to look after" as the mole says. The boy agrees with him implying that we need to be kind to ourselves and nature. They head to look for a river which would lead to a home and the mole has trouble climbing up the snow-covered hill, so the boy picks him up asking if that's better. The mole said he didn't want to be much of a bother and thanked him after the boy said it was okay. This told of their characters again as they were both considerate of each other's conditions and feelings.

Image credit: Screenshot from Apple TV on YouTube

We learn of the boy's adventurous spirit as the mole informs him that he's looking at the wild and shouldn't fear it. Seeing the river, he goes in the direction of the river and the wild as the mole says he told him to not fear it, not to charge for it. Reaching there, the boy asks the mole if he has a favourite saying and the mole says yes. The mole is asked what it is and he says, "If at first you don't succeed, have some cake.". This explains his fixation on cakes, not only as something nice but as a reward as well. The boy asks if it works and the mole says every time.

Confused, the boy asked if the old mole told him what way to go when you get to the river and he said he didn't ask that. The boy says, "Isn't it odd, we can only see our outsides, but nearly everything happens on the inside?" as he looks into the river before deciding to return to their initial point to be safe. They keep flinching fearful of the sounds and dark but the boy says they should imagine what they'd be like if they had no fears. The mole said most of the old moles wished they listened less to their fears and more to their dreams.

The fox follows their trail from the river, up the hill and back to the tree where they are at. He looks hungry and scaring them but a sound afar leaves them safe as the fox leaves. In a bit, they hear sounds and the boy thinks someone is hurt. He decides to follow them to help out despite the mole's hesitance and fear. Getting there, he sees the fox is the one troubled because he's trapped.

The mole goes to free the fox while chanting "I am not afraid". The fox threatens the mole but he does not show fear and releases him. The fox runs away and the boy tells the mole he did so well. The mole says, "One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things." and the boy hugs him.

They wake up to get things going but the mole rolls downhill turning into a snowball and fell into the river. The boy chases after him to save him but is unable to, he sees the fox and is frightened but the fox saves the mole. They both thank him and he leaves after the boy hugs him.

They go on with their journey and notice the fox came back following far behind them. The mole wondering if the fox is lost as well says, "Well, I think everyone feels a bit lost sometimes. I know I do.". They wonder about their ideas of a home. The mole idea involves a cake and the boy says he's describing a bakery but the boy says, "I think home is somewhere warm and kind, with lights.".

Image credit: Screenshot from Apple TV on YouTube

Their conversation is cut upon seeing a horse. They talk to him to find out how he's doing and how long he's been there before he joined them with the fox still lingering on. They all play in the snow before the boy says, "Doing nothing with friends is never doing nothing, is it?" and the mole responded saying "No".

The boy and the mole sit on the horse to continue on. The Mole says he's so small realizing the things he couldn't see when the boy lifts him up but the boy says, "Yes, but you make a huge difference.". They want to find a home and know a river leads to it but don't know exactly how far it will be or what it looks like. So, they intend to head towards the lights. As they leave where they played, the shape they made in the snow is a heart (for all the love they have and share).

The horse runs when the boy asks how fast he can and the fox does as well to catch up to them. However, the boy falls into a pond as they jump across it. The horse says, "You fell. But I've got you.". He felt it was his fault for falling down since he let his hands go at some point. He cried and apologized. They consoled him as the horse said "Tears fall for a reason. And they're your strength, not weakness." The boy replies saying, "I think you believe in me more than I do." but the horse says, "You'll catch up." "Life is difficult but you are loved.".

The boy sees lights and says it looks like a home which encourages them to continue on. The fox still has not spoken which the boy addresses but the horse says it's lovely he's with them. The fox finally speaks and confesses he often feels he has nothing interesting to say but the horse says, "Being honest is always interesting.". The boy asks what the bravest thing he ever said was and the horse said " 'Help'. Asking for help isn't giving up. It's refusing to give up.". This is a necessary statement and a good reminder.

As they carry on with their journey, the mole confessed that he has difficulty professing love. He says instead of saying "I love you all", he says "I'm glad we're all here." which he said immediately after his confession with it in return.

Image credit: Screenshot from Apple TV on YouTube

They encounter a storm and run to find shelter amongst the naked trees. However, the boy falls down with the mole in their search. Terrified, they stay put holding each other. The horse says, "When the big things feel out of control, focus on what you love right under your nose." and the boy says he likes that. They look peaceful despite the havoc and stay until the storm passed. Afterwards, they try to carry on with the journey but the boy's disappointment with not seeing the lights anymore overwhelms him. He feels they still have a long way to go but the horse trying to focus on the positives says, "I know but look how far we've come." Although this does not cheer him up. He feels that he'll never find a home and sits on the snow. Sometimes, a bit more can help lift your spirits. The fox says "You know, sometimes your mind plays tricks on you. It can tell you you're no good, that it's all hopeless. But I've discovered this: You are loved and important, and you bring to this world things that no one else can. So hold on.". I loved this for the fox as we see his growth from being defensive to trying vulnerability. He hugged the fox as well.

The horse sits and the boy asks him if he's alright. The horse confesses that he can fly, meaning they won't have done this trip walking but also lets them in on a secret. The horse confesses even more that he stopped because it made the other horses jealous. This shows his consideration for the other horses. The boy says, "Well, we love you whether you can fly or not." reassuring their love for him.

He lets his majestic wings show as a Pegasus. The boy and mole get on but the fox felt he would stay there and said thank you after they asked him to join them. However, the boy said please and the mole gave an agreeable 'hmm' to second the please for him to join them. The fox looked so touched that he was considered and wanted to be around that much. It seemed no one wanted him around before so he always kept to himself but it was good to see people genuinely want him around. He joined the flight as they moved towards the lights they could see now.

They arrived at the other side of the light-filled village of houses and were filled with sadness as they were to depart from the boy. He tells them 'thank you', says his goodbyes and hugs them. The fox says, "Always remember, you're enough. Just as you are.". This reminded me immediately of Mark Darcy's feelings proclamation to Bridget Jones as he liked her just as she is. It is a reminder to be true to yourself, to know your self-worth and to believe in it.

The mole expresses his love by saying, "I'm glad we're all here" again. The boy says he's going to miss them after a last goodbye and head towards the lights. He stopped and said, "No" before saying, "Home isn't always a place, is it?". They joyfully reunite and hug. They rest in an open area looking at the stars. The mole said, "Well, this is warm.", the fox said, "And very Kind." while the horse ends it by saying, "And look at the stars.". All referencing his definition of a home earlier and clarifying that this is enough. The boy asked that's why we're here isn't it and the film ends after he said, "To love and be loved.".

Image credit: Image from BBC

This is a simple wholesome and educational animated film. The animation is identical to the book drawings because they leapt off the pages. Apple Tv also includes a documentary as bonus content giving more insight into the life of Charlie Mackesy and his inspiration for the story.

I can see why the book was loved by billions. The story is a good representation of healthy friendships and relationships. It's just beautiful seeing their growth, empathy and care for one another. They make a safe space for each other filled with positivity, reassurance and affirmations. They detected their moods, acknowledged their feelings and gave each other time to talk when they wanted to. The presence of this story and it's potential impact on daily life is fundamental.

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About the Creator

'Vive Akugha

I write on various things: social issues, well-being, cinema and out of curiosity. More!

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  • Lisa Akemiabout a year ago

    I saw little clips of this on the internet and it really captured my heart. Thanks for this! I've wanted to know the background of it!

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