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Review: Over The Moon Is A Fantastical Tearjerker About Love And Loss

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BY November 2, 2020
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Netflix’s latest original movie became a tearjerker for me even before I saw it. More on that later. But Over The Moon is an incredibly soulful story about love and loss, and letting go, but told in a way that is abstract and totally unique. The animated movie is engaging, intriguing, and beautiful in a way that is subtle but never drives the point home. This Over The Moon review was difficult to write, given the incredibly emotional and moving moments in the movie, but it’s worth a watch, so check it out. 

Over The Moon Review Is A Fantasy Voyage Into One’s Own Soul

Over The Moon review study Image via Netflix.

The Over The Moon trailers revealed very little about its story. And the subsequent trailers were even more head-scratchy. But the actual story is a lot more layered and complicated, with a simplicity of its own. Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) grew up hearing about the legend of a Moon Goddess. She had the perfect family; doting parents, a mother and father deeply in love, wholesome family traditions, and the shared love for a fairytale. But when she has to deal with reality, and the passing of her mother, Fei Fei has trouble accepting the world around her. She still frames her life around the legends of the faraway Moon. Over The Moon is very much about dealing with loss in life, in a way that’s never preachy, by drawing subtle parallels. 

The symbolism and metaphors within the entire concept of Over The Moon is one of the best things about the movie. It almost makes me wonder who the movie is for, adults or young children. This is because the message of the movie is clear but never on the nose. And how we get there is never explained directly. Of course, audiences can get it, if they are paying attention. 

A Musical Unlike the Typical Cartoon Musicals for Kids

Over The Moon review lions. Image via Netflix.

There are many ways in this Over The Moon review that I’ll point out how the movie separates itself from the usual animated film of its genre. One of those ways is with a very different musical approach that the film takes. Unlike classic Disney movies, Over The Moon’s soundtrack isn’t really catchy stand-alone numbers that are reminiscent of pop songs you can just keep on repeat. Any parent has had to deal with the mind-numbing, burn in your brain, months-long renditions of “Let It Go” when Frozen first released. 

The songs from Over The Moon instead, are operatic in nature, more telling a story using emotional crescendos, rather than trying to be memorable earworms. I can’t tell you how most of the movie’s songs go, but I can remember the overwhelming emotion within me during those moments and what the songs signified. 

No Over The Moon Review Can Ignore the Movie’s Incredibly Representative Story

Over The Moon review family. Image via Netflix.

Over The Moon is so incredibly culturally representative that it’s amazing. The story is about Asian characters, revering Asian folklore, with a family paradigm that is completely universal. The story aside, the everyday dynamics of relationships within Fei Fei’s life are intriguing and show how she resists changes within that dynamic. It’s a small aspect, but again, never driven home in an obvious way. So much of Over The Moon is up for interpretation, while still never leaving anything unresolved. Interpretation and symbolism take center stage when framing very real-world ideas and hard concepts through a fantasy setting in an adventure about a little girl navigating her own feelings. 

An Even More Abstract and Fantastical Version of Inside Out

Gobi. Image via Netflix.

In many ways, Over The Moon is very much in the same spiritual vein as Pixar’s Inside Out. While the former is a much more abstract representation of a young girl’s inner thoughts and emotions, the latter is more of a straight forward concept. And this is the genius behind the approach to Over The Moon’s story.

Fei Fei latches on to the fairy tale as a way to remember her mother. So much so that she totally believes that it’s real. That the immortal Moon Goddess Chang’e (Hamilton‘s Phillipa Soo) lives on the Moon, pining for her long lost love every day. So when her father (John Cho) seems to be moving on with someone else, Fei Fei’s ideas of eternal love are shattered. Wanting to prove Chang’e’s story as fact, to rekindle her father’s love for her deceased mother, she embarks on an adventure to the moon. 

This Over The Moon review focuses on how the story’s plot is about what she finds, and how her journey is meant to serve as a mirror to the journey that we go through during the loss of a loved one. I won’t tell you exactly how, because this is story you should see without being spoiled. What Fei Fei finds on the moon is a surreal and wonderfully bright uplifting world where Chang’e rules, while trying to find ways to unite with her long-dead lover. Or does she? 

Over The Moon Looks Gorgeous And Breathtaking

Leged. Image via Netflix.

For an animated movie, Over The Moon is stunningly gorgeous. From the look of the characters and the real world aesthetics, to the crazy and kooky to the neon colour kingdom of Lunaria. Which is full of literal biker chicks and cute glowing jelly beings; it’s all brilliant. The world perfectly suits the story, in that it’s inexplicable, outrageous, and completely intangible or explainable to others not experiencing it.

The Behind The Scenes Story Is Just As Heartbreaking

Over The Moon review siblings. Image via Netflix.

Prior to watching Over The Moon, I learned of how the movie came to be. And that is probably a more poignant story that underscores the deep emotional core of the movie itself. Screenwriter Audrey Wells wrote the story of Over The Moon, shortly after her own cancer diagnosis. After submitting her script, she passed away in 2018, 2 years before the movie released. Wells wrote her story, knowing full well that she would not be around to see it in its final form. In an EW interview, director Glen Keane mentions how the story is Wells’ legacy to her own husband and child, to deal with her loss. 

Of all the ‘based on a true story’ tags we get at the beginning or end of movies, this has to be the most significant. Keep in mind, however, this isn’t a fact that the movie exploits or even advertises. The film has the ‘In the memory of’ tag at the end, but it’s doesn’t fully describe how Over The Moon is essentially a tear-jerking how-to guide of being able to get over a loss. It makes the story so much more relevant, and takes away any ability to stay composed during the emotionally devastating scenes.

What If It All Really Happened? 

Over The Moon review loss. Image via Netflix.

The movie’s biggest achievement is that it doesn’t try to distinguish fact from fiction. Despite Fei Fei’s outlandishly unbelievable journey, there’s no importance placed on whether it was real or not. Which was the motivation with which she began her journey. To prove that Chang’e and her mother’s fairy tale was real. But the ending doesn’t bother itself with that anymore. Whether or not Fei Fei’s experience actually happened or not, is irrelevant. The experience itself and what she walks away with is more real than anything in her life at the time, and that is the takeaway. 

Over The Moon is a highly recommended watch. While it’s not the perfectly made move, it’s a different take on a type of story we’ve seen before. It’s fun and exciting while completely hooking you in with the story. While it’s also totally a kids’ movie, it never actually talks down to that demographic in a way that most kids movies do. 

Over The Moon is now streaming on Netflix. 

What did you think about Over The Moon? Let me know in the comments below. 

Featured Image via Netflix. 

MoviesAudrey WellsCathy AndJohn ChoNetflixNetflix OriginalOver The MoonPhilip Soon

Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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