More suited to younger audiences than Twomey’s excellent, Oscar-nominated debut ‘The Breadwinner,’ about an 11-year-old girl in Taliban-era Afghanistan, ‘My Father’s Dragon’ grapples with how fear paralyzes or propels us. A whimsical creature terrified by the disappearance of their home; a parent who loses his temper in the face of uncertainty; a child feeling momentarily helpless – everyone feels the fear equally acutely. But it is in the way they choose to react that fear can become a vehicle for growth.
Leaving behind their once thriving store in a tight-knit community, a kind-hearted boy named Elmer (Jacob Tremblay) and his caring mother Dela (Golshifteh Farahani) move to a dense urban location known as Nevergreen. In this unfamiliar environment, Elmer believes in Dela’s promise that they will soon own another establishment. Their daily life will resume its course. Yet, as the pressures of life mount around her, that goal seems rather distant.
As a reward for his kindness amidst domestic turmoil, a talking cat guides Elmer to the colorful savage island to free the still-undeveloped dragon Boris (Gaten Matarazzo) from Saiwa (Ian McShane), the leader of all wildlife. . who uses it to keep their houseboat from sinking. Designed for maximum cuteness, the animals here look and behave with natural fairytale charm: a pack of smiling tigers have heads larger than their bodies, and there’s also an anxious lemur, a mother rhino and her offspring, and cotton- like pikas.
Released from forced duties, Boris explains that he wishes to become an “after-dragon”, an evolved version of himself with the ability to breathe fire. He needs the boy’s help to decipher how to reach his full potential. In exchange, Elmer wants his fantastical new companion to come back with him to Nevergreen for a few days to bring attention to him and his mother’s potential new venture. Fluffy Islanders, however, need both to save Wild Island.
The vegetation of this realm often appears in red and pink tones, as a conscious decision made to contrast the beautifully textured backgrounds and Boris’ yellow and green striped skin. Boris’ skin is the visual element most directly faithful to the original artwork published over 70 years ago.