Number of violent elephant deaths: 0
Number of unverifiable claims about elephants: 5 (unverified)
Number of sightings of Meghan Markle: 0
I had no interest in Elephant and had never heard of it until the early reviews broke last week, focused largely on narrator Meghan Markle (who is never once on screen) and hardly mentioning the movie's star, Jomo, who is of the species mentioned in the single-word title.
I have no interest in nature documentaries and have never intentionally watched one but global cinematic events are increasingly hard to find now the globe has been reduced to a theoretical construct, so I watched on that basis and that basis alone.
The movie is largely fantastical nonsense deriving most of its emotional power from anthropomorphising elephants and making unverifiable claims about the workings of their minds, which seems a waste of good material, because the film-makers must have followed these animals for a very long time, in very difficult and dangerous circumstances to produce that hokum.
The story is about a family of elephants who have to undertake a long and dangerous migration to find a new habitat at the changing of the seasons, then do the same thing in reverse at the next changing of the seasons. Narratively, I guess this is supposed to be satisfying, most of them making it unscathed but, given how frequently and probable death appeared throughout their trips, I couldn't help but feel happy for my kids that we didn't have to watch the sequel.
A big part of the appeal of writing these film reviews is getting to spend time with my wife away from our children but now that's impossible, we've decided to lean into it. We tried to make an event of Elephant, including a big bowl of popcorn but Casper, the only one of us not wearing pants, ended up tipping much of it over his genitals.
I would have loved to discuss the movie with Zanna so I could have given her my negative thoughts and had her tell me they were wrong but it was hard to get a word in edgeways with the kids' endless inane comments and questions. We asked them what they thought of the film but I don't remember what they said.
My greatest fear had been that our kids were going to have to watch a lion eating a baby elephant. They didn't, so I guess you could say the movie was a success. At times like these, an absence of horror is no small thing.
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I would like to say that during their weekly half-hour of screen time, our children are permitted to only watch nature documentaries but that would be a big lie - huge. Our kids almost exclusively watch garbage YouTubers, Free Rein andBlaze and the Monster Machines - sometimes for hours at a time.
We have never successfully watched a film as a family, so my expectations for Elephant were low. The first time we tried to watch a movie with our eldest child, four years ago, we started about 15 different titles, all of which she found "too shary" (scary), before she settled on Tinker Bell, which frankly sucked.
We haven't watched any nature documentaries with the kids because they're all big scaredy cats - they're also actually scared of cats and pretty much all animals. But our youngest did say, "Yay, I yuv eyaphants!" as the movie started, so things were off to a good start.
The film tracks the journey of a family of elephants traveling across the Kalahari Desert in search of water and food, as generations have done before. I probably would've learned a lot more about elephants if I didn't have three kids watching the film with me - they talked constantly - but they also liked it.
The footage really is incredible and it's worth watching for the images alone. There were some tense moments involving predatory lions, treacherous river crossings and a fading matriarch but none of the kids asked to turn it off and our 6-year-old even decided to draw all the animals she saw in a notebook, like a wildlife biologist.
The reason the film is on everyone's radar is because it's narrated by Meghan Markle. I once heard Amy Schumer say that people don't like listening to women talk too much because it reminds them of their mother's nagging. Which may explain why women rarely get to narrate documentaries. We are shrill, apparently. Not Markle: she has a deep, slightly raspy, authoritative yet playful tone and, if you don't like it, you are sexist.
Adult viewers do need to bear in mind it's made by Disney. The narration is geared towards young viewers and the story is very neat. I hope the film-makers did some solid fact-checking because some of the statements they make seem a little unknowable.
If you're the kind of person who will be bothered by that, just put it on for the kids and walk away. It's totally fine because Ashley Bloomfield announced that screen time restrictions have been lifted for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown. Finally, some good news.