Although short films don’t get the widespread recognition that they should, I’ve always been a fan because when done right, short films are a masterwork of storytelling. The ability to create fully realized characters that connect with an audience, and to use these characters to tell an interesting and compelling story is hard enough when you have anywhere from 90 to 180 minutes in which to do so. To pull this off in under ten minutes is an incredible feat, and when all of those elements come together the result can be magical. I recently saw Disney’s latest animated feature film, Wreck-It Ralph, which was a wonderful movie that I greatly enjoyed. However, the short film that screened before it, Paperman, is the film that I’m still thinking about four weeks later.
I’ve previously written about my love of Pixar’s library of shorts, but I was completely unaware that Disney’s traditional animation studios were still producing short films. I adore their classic shorts from the studio’s earlier days, and therefore I was happy to discover that this tradition continues. More importantly, I was thrilled to see that the quality of these films is still top notch, as Paperman is an exquisitely beautiful film about two people finding each other.
Set in 1940s New York City, a man and a woman briefly meet on a subway platform, only to be immediately separated. Later in the day, the young man sees the woman in the building across the street from his work and valiantly tries to contact her. When his attempts fail, destiny decides to intervene, and the result is a magical and whimsical journey of fate. Almost dialogue free, the film expertly creates distinct characters who are instantly relatable, and when the story abandons realism in favour of magical forces, the moment feels so natural within the world of the film that your heart soars. Ultimately, Paperman is a beautiful and moving film about two people getting a push from the universe in each other’s direction, and it will resonate with anyone who has ever made an all too brief connection with a stranger and wondered, “What if?”