Charlotte Review: An Artistically Restrained, But Impactful Animated Biopic

Charlotte is a moving animated biopic of the life of Charlotte Salomon, a young German-Jewish artist who met a tragic end. The animated film – from directors Tahir Rana and Eric Warin, who worked from a screenplay by Erik Rutherford and David Bezmozgis – takes the conventions of a traditional biopic to depict the short life of Charlotte Salomon as she and her family try to survive the Nazis during World War II.

Charlotte’s journey to adulthood is marked by tragedy and uncertainty as the young woman attempts to chart her own path as a brilliant artist. In the face of great political and social upheaval, everyday forms of bigotry and discrimination, and the promise of violence around every corner, Charlotte Salomon (voiced by Keira Knightley) rose up against these hardships to pursue her passion for art.

Although the story is simple and straightforward, the animated film takes on the burden of carrying the emotional weight. Charlotte’s paintings serve as central transitional pieces to the narrative, anchoring the story to Charlotte’s very real emotional and mental state as she went into hiding for her life and courageously pursued art. It is through animation that the biopic maintains a level of resonance and relevance. The artistic choice is a reflection of the care and consideration for Charlotte’s work as her paintings are seamlessly integrated into the modern art form. The story itself is heartbreaking and it’s not for those deeply affected by depictions of prejudice, racism, bigotry and violence. There is a deep sadness that pervades the film and cannot be overstated, but there is also a palpable embrace of hope and joy that emanates throughout. It is the reflection of the light left by Solomon’s art and life.

There’s no doubt that a live-action adaptation (presumably starring Knightley) would have been deeply rooted in the dark, overwhelming desperation of the story, but the animation strikes a balance. In the post-credits epilogue featuring footage of Charlotte’s stepmother Paula (voiced by the late Helen McCrory) and her father Albert (voiced by Eddie Marsan), they are asked if Charlotte loved life. Paula, with a smile on her face, replies: “Absolutely. And she rediscovered it time and time again. This feeling is very felt in the film, especially in the choice of coloring and style of animation. Tahir Rana and Eric Warin undoubtedly respect and honor their subject matter with an animation style that closely, but not entirely, resembles that of Solomon’s own works.

There could have been a little more resemblance, but the limitation allows Charlotte’s work that is recreated in the film to stand out more. The film, however, is a little too polished and restrained. Could have been a bit more experimental like the one in 2017 Loving Vincent. Narratively, it’s a little too familiar and closely follows a formula that could easily have been broken. The story is enough for the emotional core of the narrative to resonate with the audience, but the animation style is too tame and lacks texture. There is a lot to be desired in the overall presentation of the film.

Charlotte, for the most part, is an easily digestible animated biopic that could have done with more artistic freedom when incorporating his work. However, the film is effective and impactful. The powerful moments resonate deeply as Rana and Warin carefully chart Charlotte’s short life, putting audiences in an emotional grip as the film’s final moments unfold. In all, Charlotte imposes itself despite its lack of artistic expression.

Charlotte released in theaters on Friday, April 22. It is 93 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for subject matter.

Our assessment:

3.5 out of 5 (very good)


More information about Charlotte Review: An Artistically Restrained, But Impactful Animated Biopic

Charlotte is a moving animated biopic of the life of Charlotte Salomon, a young German-Jewish artist who met a tragic end. The animated film — from directors Tahir Rana and Eric Warin, who worked from a screenplay by Erik Rutherford and David Bezmozgis — takes on the conventions of a traditional biopic to depict Charlotte Salomon’s short life as she and her family attempt to survive the Nazis during World War II.
Charlotte’s coming-of-age journey is marred by tragedy and uncertainty as the young woman tries to forge her own path as a brilliant artist. In the face of great political and social upheaval, everyday forms of bigotry and discrimination, and the promise of violence around every corner, Charlotte Salomon (voiced by Keira Knightley) rose against these difficulties to pursue her passion in art.
While the story is simple and to the point, the animated film takes on the burden of carrying the emotional heft. Charlotte’s paintings serve as central transitional pieces to the narrative, anchoring the story to the very real Charlotte’s emotional and mental state as she hid for her life and bravely pursued art. It is through the medium of animation that the biopic maintains a level of resonance and relevance. The artistic choice is a reflection of the care and consideration for Charlotte’s work as her paintings are seamlessly integrated into the modern art form. The story itself is harrowing and it is not for those who are deeply affected by depictions of prejudice, racism, bigotry and violence. There is a deep sadness that permeates the film and cannot be overstated, but there is a palpable embrace of hope and joy that emanates throughout as well. It’s a reflection of the light Salomon’s art and life left behind.
There is no doubt that a live-action adaptation (probably starring Knightley) would have been deeply rooted in the dark and overwhelming despair of the story, but the animation creates a balance. In the post-credits epilogue featuring footage of Charlotte’s stepmother Paula (voiced by the late Helen McCrory) and her father Albert (voiced by Eddie Marsan), they are asked if Charlotte loved life. Paula, with a smile on her face, answers, “Very much so. And she rediscovered it time and time again.” This sentiment is very much felt in the film, most notably in the choice of coloring and animation style. Tahir Rana and Eric Warin undoubtedly respect and honor their subject with an animation style that closely, but not entirely, resembles that of Salomon’s own artwork.
There could have been a bit more of a closer likeness, but the limitation allows Charlotte’s work that is recreated in the film to stand out more. The film, however, is a bit too polished and restrained. It could have gone a bit more experimental like 2017’s Loving Vincent. Narratively, it is a bit too familiar and closely follows a formula that could have easily been broken. The story is enough to get the emotional core of the narrative to resonate with audiences, but the animation style is too tame and lacks texture. There is a lot to be desired in the overall presentation of the film.
Charlotte, for the most part, is an easily digestible animated biopic that could have done with more artistic liberties when integrating her work. However, the film is effective and impactful. The powerful moments resonate deeply as Rana and Warin carefully plot through Charlotte’s short life, putting the audience in an emotional grip as the final moments of the film play out. All in all, Charlotte is required viewing despite what it is lacking in artistic expression.
Charlotte released in theaters on Friday, April 22. It is 93 minutes long and rated PG-13 for the subject matter.

Our Rating:
3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)

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