Rule #3: Never fall in love.
In Stéphane Berla and Mathias Malzieu‘s JACK and the CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART (Jack et la mécanique du Coeur) (2013) a little boy was born on the coldest day in the history of the world and it froze his heart. Luckily for this little boy, a kind and gentle witch saved him by removing his frozen human heart and replaced it with an ingenious piece of clockwork–a cuckoo-clock. Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, a novel by Mathias Malzieu is a fantastical tale of love and heartbreak, or dare I say clock break. But also, this wildly imaginative animation is not only about a requited romance, but it is also an animated film about adversity and in the end, acceptance.
After saving baby Jack from dying of a frozen heart, Madeleine (voiced by Barbara Scaff), replaced Jack’s heart with a clock heart. The clock comes with a particular set of instructions: he must never touch the hands of the clock, and he must master his anger, and above all, he must never, ever fall in love. Simple instructions for a child, however, as a boy soon on the precipice of puberty, Jack (voiced by Orlando Seale) soon discovers that the “three rules” were painstaking to follow. For Jack is eager to escape the confines of his home and experience the world. He eventually meets Miss Acacia (voiced by Samantha Barks), a near-sighted schoolgirl, who for some reason or another sprouts thorns whenever she feels threatened. These two flawed young people meet and immediately fall in love and for poor Jack, his cuckoo-heart just could not handle it.
Throughout the film, we see Jack navigating the complexities of love and the havoc it is wreaking on his mechanical heart. I’m not too sure if this is an appropriate “children’s tale” due to much of Jack’s adventures are heavily moody for a child’s film. There is a pseudo-Jack the Ripper character, throwing knives at him in one scene, and in another, schoolyard bullies assaulting him and trying to destroy the one thing keeping him alive, his cuckoo-clock heart. The dialogue complicates the story as well with its intricate word choices that won’t necessarily appeal to a younger audiences.
The film isn’t all bad. In fact, I enjoyed its wildly imaginative animations, its 19th-century refined sensibility and doll-like porcelain characters, and it’s steampunk styled sub-genre and vivid backdrops. It is unfortunate; however, that Jack’s tale of love isn’t able to transcend to younger viewers.
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