Remember Thing, the spider-like severed hand from ‘The Addams Family’? Well, another disembodied mitt is at the centre of French animation ‘I Lost My Body’: only it’s vulnerable instead of terrifying. Director Jérémy Clapin’s masterful adaptation of graphic novel ‘Happy Hand’ is a tender exploration of what it’s like to lose part of yourself, both metaphorically and literally.
The opening scenes explore all the gorgeously messed up possibilities in the scenario of a severed hand roaming through Paris. Astonishingly beautiful animations make the city’s streets loom like canyon walls, cars roaring through them like ancient beasts. The hand uses a ravioli tin for protection, hermit crab style, then grabs a lighter to scorch rampaging rats. At first, its route seems random, but this hand knows exactly where it’s going.
Its journey is intercut with scenes introducing us to Naoufel (voiced by Dev Patel), a dreamy young migrant who’s trying to find home in Paris’s suburbs. Clapin casts a sharp eye on the city’s less fabled corners, such as the grim digs where Naoufel sleeps and the anonymous apartment block whose malfunctioning intercom sparks a meeting with Gabrielle (Alia Shawkat).
Naoufel has lost his parents and his homeland, which is recalled in light-saturated flashbacks. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that his interest in Gabrielle becomes discomfortingly intense, in scenes that are compassionately written while still showing that his behaviour isn’t okay. Then, just as it all feels too sad to bear, the misfit parts of this story come together, building to a climax that’s as powerful as a fist, and as sensitive as your fingertips.