Feature Film Online: The Romantic
Not all fairy tales are for children. And I’m not just talking about Goldilocks and the Three Bares. Michael P. Heneghan’s feature length animated movie The Romantic is a fairy tale for adults, in every sense I can mean that. Yes, there’s some animated wonka-wonka going on and some blue language. (Hint, hint: This is NSFW and not for children.) But, the film also deals with complex themes of love, lust, hate, regret, revenge, treachery, familial trauma and other dark subjects. Featuring a beautifully unique visual style, Heneghan has woven a rich tapestry for a far-out fable you can really sink your teeth into.
The eponymous lead character of The Romantic is a young lad who falls out of love with his girlfriend after consummating their relationship, so he goes in search of the goddess of love so he can recapture his lost feelings. Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. And soon, the Romantic feels betrayed by all the gods — particularly Love, Hate and Time — and vows to kill them one by one. A mysterious traveling companion, named Patience, is all too eager to help him in his quest.
However, there’s actually three stories going on here that are interconnected. First, there’s the Romantic’s quest to kill the gods, then there’s the complicated relationship between the three deities who are to be murdered and, lastly, there’s the faux king Big Daddy who attempts to conquer all the lands through fear, intimidation and murder.
That’s a lot going on, but Heneghan, through creating very compelling characters who all have very serious issues they need to deal with, weaves all their stories together masterfully. And Heneghan seems especially aware of what he’s “weaving,” since he goes as far as making that the occupation of the Romantic before he goes on his revenge killing spree.
Each character is extremely distinct, both in their visual styles and in their objectives. Heneghan is also especially good at doling out just the right amount of information to make the story clear and to propel the plot along, but holding enough back so that by mid-way through the film there are little surprise revelations every few minutes.
Even though Big Daddy is the most overtly corrupt character, just about every other one also has a terrible secret that he or she is hiding. Heneghan reveals all of those secrets in ways that deepen our interest in the characters so that they, for the most part, become tragic characters playing out a tale that has already been foretold. They are unable to escape their fates, in the way that many of us can feel pushed and pulled around by our own emotions.
And, yes, it’s a sad tale, but Heneghan keeps it all from becoming all too depressing by adding lots of humor. Much of that humor comes from the quirky visual style, designs and sight gags. Again, some of that humor is overt such as making Big Daddy look like a giant scrotum or having Patience kick around his unwanted babies. But, I also swear there are more hidden humorous designs such as making the entrance to the goddess of Love’s home looks like a big vagina or making King Crookie look like a cross between John Lennon and Cartman on South Park. (To be fair, close-ups of Love’s entrance also reminded me of the thief entering the lair of the alchemist in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.)
The Romantic is a very rich and complex fairy tale and, like all good fairy tales, has deep moral metaphors buried within its story.