Until I saw Coco, I thought The Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) was simply the Mexican Halloween. Wrong!
I saw Coco when it first came out in 2017 but I saw it a second time this October as it was showing in the local movie theater.
It is sad we live in a year when I need to explain going to the movies. When they reopened in Arizona, I debated. I’ve decided I feel safe if I go mid-week and to the first showing. This is a personal decision and will be different for everyone. It is most important to do what makes you feel safe. I must add that besides me, there was a family with three children. So there were six of us at that showing. That is sad as theaters cannot survive without audiences, yet we have to do what is safe.
Coco is a stunningly beautiful movie, well worth watching at home. It opens with a brief description of how they put it together. The story begins with lovely images while telling us that Miguel is twelve and loves music and that’s a problem for him. His great-great grandfather was a musician who one day took his guitar, left his family and never returned. His wife opened a shoe making business to support herself and her daughter and now all the family makes shoes for their little village. Bitter over her husband’s desertion, she forbids any of them to even listen to music, much less play it.
Miguel secretly practices the songs of a famous, long dead musician, Ernesto de La Cruz. Wanting to compete in a guitar contest that celebrates the Day of the Dead, he takes the guitar of Ernesto off a museum wall. He falls and wakes up in the land of the dead. He quickly realizes it since everyone else is a skeleton. He doesn’t belong there. He is alive but only if he can leave before dawn.
The land of the dead is not spooky or frightening in any way, just strange, interesting and beautiful.
Now the action starts. He suspects the famous Ernesto is his great-great grandfather and goes in search of him. He finds an ally in Hector who is also desperate to visit the land of the living to see his family again.
We learn that Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is the one day out of the year when the dead can cross over to visit but only if they are remembered. Families put up photos of the dead and celebrate them. This allows the dead to visit briefly as ghosts.
If no one remembers them, they cannot visit and eventually turn into sparkling dust that disappears. We see this happen to a friend of Hector who had no family or friends and so turns to dust. This is shown as rather beautiful. I felt the idea is that the land of the dead is only temporary, a place to stay in touch before moving on. The sparkling golden dust suggests not an end but a passage to the next stage in the after life or perhaps to heaven.
The plot gets very complicated and fun as Miguel and Hector struggle to solve their problems in a race against time. When dawn comes, it will be too late.
I can’t say more without revealing the plot twists. Throughout, this is a movie about family, about the love of family and the importance of remembering those who are gone.
And it leaves you with images of beauty.
Reviewed by Marian Powell
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