Orion and the Dark (2024)

Orion and the Dark (2024)

Charlie Kaufman returns to animation in this charmingly neurotic bedtime story



United States of America
Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Aliki Theofilopoulos, Amy Hill, Angela Bassett
93 min


Quiet was a little mouse… Little mouse… Little mouse…

What it's about

Orion is a grade school kid that’s average in all things except in one thing: his wild imagination leads him to irrational fears of everything, especially the dark. One stormy evening, the Dark whisks him away on an unforgettable journey to prove there’s nothing to be afraid of at night.

The take

Going to sleep is something we do every day, though, when we were kids, it certainly wasn’t easy. With family-friendly source material and a new (and adorable!) sleepytime ensemble, Orion and the Dark plays with this fact of childhood, but screenwriter Charlie Kaufman transforms it into something more as the title characters journey into literal midnight dreams, tell stories-within-stories, and return back home with a poetic repetition. It still has some of his existential despair– after all, the overly imaginative Orion literally contemplates the possibility of death through his many, many anxieties– but it doesn’t just play with the classic childhood fear. Kaufman transforms the bedtime story, and the act of storytelling itself, as co-creation and connection between generations of filmmakers and viewers, with this film’s surprisingly layered writing.

What stands out

The screenplay. The original storybook is a straightforward tale about a boy befriending the dark and challenging his fears, but the screenplay expands the bedtime story into a whole light-dark allegory about storytelling, artistry, and time. It does rely a tad on deus ex machina, and certainly there were moments made to be more child-friendly, but it does preserve exactly what’s so Kaufman-esque about it.


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