i lost my body review

Watch out The Addams Family! There’s only one true animated film about a severed hand, and it’s the Netflix film I Lost My Body. Jeremy Clapin’s impressive first feature, this French animated movie is an artsy, macabre, mostly very emotional story told from the point of view of a severed hand with a case of reverse missing limb, who is on an epic quest to reunite with its owner. 

Taking a minimalist, nearly lyrical approach to storytelling, Clapin opens his movie with a black-and-white flashback (one of many throughout the film) of a young Moroccan boy, Naoufel (Hakim Faris) whose father is teaching him how to capture a fly with his bare hands. Then we cut forward to a fridge in a small room, out of which comes a severed hand. After freeing itself from a plastic packaging and jumping out a window, it begins an arduous and frenetic journey through Paris. It’s a series of misadventures as the film flashes back and forth between the hand’s travels and Naoufel’s youth and moments leading to him being separated from his hand.

Naoufel’s story is one of deep longing for happiness. Based on a script by Amélie writer Guillaume Laurant, adapted from his own 2006 novel Happy Hand, I Lost My Body follows his childhood as he has to move to Paris following a tragedy that takes his family from him, and he takes up a job at a pizza delivery boy. He hates the job and is not very good at it, but one day he happens to meet Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois), a hip librarian with whom he quickly becomes obsessed, following her to her uncle’s carpentry studio where he asks for an apprentice job.

With a pitch-perfect pace and a brisk 80-minute runtime, I Lost My Body is a painfully realistic and often macabre slice-of-life exploration of loss and a pursuit of feeling whole, as well as the idea of fate and tragedy and whether the sorrows in our lives are predetermined or if we can do something about them. Clapin takes a very visual approach to telling the story, setting up small visual cues early in the film that will pay off later – like the aforementioned fly-catching lesion which becomes a true test of strength for the disembodied hand.

While Naoufel’s story is a melancholic drama, I Lost My Body manages to blend genres and tell a fantastic adventure tale starring a disembodied hand that dabbles in action, body horror and even road-movie. Through a series of vignettes, the hand catches a ride via a pigeon before breaking the bird’s neck after its done. Despite not having eyes, or any way to express emotions, we are fully able to sense the sheer terror in the hand as it faces an escalator that leads down to a subway. The scariest scene then comes when the hand has to face a swarm of feral rats in the dark subway, with the music disappearing and the sound of the rats’ scream sounding like monsters out of a creature feature. 

Stylistically, I Lost My Body’s art style gives the film a look that’s somewhere between Japanese anime and a graphic novel, mixing CG animation with – appropriate – hand drawn animation to perfectly sell the genre-bending story that goes from painfully realistic to full-blown horror. This is accompanied with an electronic, impressionistic score by Dan Levy. His electronic harmonies infusing the film with sci-fi tones and tragic orchestration that somehow perfectly encapsulates all of life’s experiences.

While it may seem dark and overly serious, I Lost My Body also sprinkles its story with some seriously dark comedy, recognizing the value in appreciating the small pleasures in life. Ultimately, the movie ends on a note that may not be as conclusive as some audience members may want, but which pays off the recurring visual cues and themes of the movie until that point, opening the doors to a future that is as uncertain as it is full of possibility. In the end, I Lost My Body is about that possibility – about the pain, the suffering, but also about love and happiness. Though it stars a disembodied hand, it’s one of the most profound films in recent years.

I Lost My Body is a touching, macabre, and profoundly emotional animated film with a unique visual style and one of the most original stories that prove the value and the potential of animation as a medium, at the same time as it signals the arrival of a new promising new voice in the medium.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10

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About the Author

Rafael Motamayor (@RafaelMotamayor) is a recovering-cinephile and freelance writer from Venezuela currently based in Norway. He likes writing about horror despite being the most scary-cat person he knows.