The Alchemist's Letter full movie review - Beautifully designed and realized animation which draws the viewer through cynicism to make the simple message be effective and touching
A man returns to the home of his once-estranged but now dead father, to find the machine that took the father from the family unit (a memory-powered machine to turn metal to gold), and a letter from the father addressed to the son.
From here the majority of the film is the voice of the father reading the letter out to his son.
Mostly this is a cautionary fairy-tale, with a background of darkness but ultimately a warming message of family and what really is important in life; so as a narrative it is pretty simple, but as with all good stories, it is the delivery that makes it rise about the basic bones of what it is. This delivery is strong in several ways, the most apparent of which being the animation. It is technically impressive through, with such a high standard that it is hard to believe it is a short film released for free on the internet and funded by a kickstarter campaign ? which is not to look down on either of those things, but just to say that it would not look out of place next to Frozen or a product of much greater resources. However, it is not just the technology but how it is used that makes the animation work. There is a great creativity to the design of the machine, and the way we follow the memories through the various stages, with images and transitions working really well as the camera moves along with them; it is such a good flow and such imaginative images that it is hard not to love it.
The use of John Hurt as the father's voice is equally important as it provides a core of warmth to the narration; it is not just that he has a distinctive voice, but more that he has a great voice, and his performance makes the most of it, feeding the emotional core and the feeling of the fairy-tale. These work together to produce a beautiful piece of animation that is better than the simple moral message it delivers, because it makes it work and overcomes cynicism.