Full disclosure, I actually saw this week’s film when it was first released, earlier this year – and I didn’t love it. This time around however I enjoyed the weirdness and have come away with a refreshed appreciation for stop start animation.
The House (2022)
Three visionary tales. One unforgettable place.
Across different eras, a poor family, an anxious developer and a fed-up landlady become tied to the same mysterious house in this animated dark comedy.
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama ∙ IMDB user rating: 6.8
My score: 3.5/5 ∙ Runtime: 97 mins
The House is a three part anthology based around one house.
I – And heard within, a lie is spun
In part one, a young girl called Mabel occupies a run down cottage with her family: father Raymond, mother Penny and newborn sister Isobel. Following a visit from horrible wealthy relatives who criticise the way the family live, Raymond does what any normal bloke would do – goes and gets pissed in the woods. Here he makes a deal with mysterious architect Mr. Van Schoonbeek.
The following morning, Schoonbeek’s associate Mr Thomas shows up to make good on the arrangement – that the family will move out of their cottage and into a brand new house built by the architect – free of charge.
Once ensconced, Mabel notices an almost immediate change in her parents, amoungst other odd things, such as missing staircases and workmen constantly fixing things around the building. Raymond has become obsessed with the fireplace, staring into it for hours, while her mother spends all her time sewing drapes.
When Mabel bumps into a hysterical Mr Thomas who tells her he’s just an actor and can’t do what Schoonbeek is asking of him anymore, she knows they’re in trouble. What will become of her and Isobel when she uncovers the truth about her parents?
II – Then lost is truth that can’t be won
In part two, in a different timeline, we meet a developer renovating the house. The developer, who remains nameless, has laid off his workers to save on costs, and is doing all the work himself. I should point out that the developer is an anthropomorphic rat in a world full of anthropomorphic rats.
During the renovation, the developer discovers an infestation of fur beetles and tries desperately to keep them contained with poison, to little avail. On the day of the house viewing, everything goes wrong and the developer feels incredibly deflated until a couple appear, claiming to be extremely interested in the house.
This gruesome twosome are strangely shaped and acting weirdly, while making themselves right at home. Scared of jeopardising the potential sale, the developer doesn’t kick up a stink when the couple draw a bath before deciding to stay the night but his patience is pushed when they just don’t leave – and, needless to say, there’s no further movement on the sale.
Meanwhile, the bugs return in force and the couple’s entire family shows up, moving into the house and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Will the developer be pushed to do something drastic or will he adopt a ‘if you can’t beat them’ philosophy?
III – Listen again and seek the sun
In the final segment, we meet long suffering Rosa, a cat whose family home – the house – has been surrounded by water following a apocalyptic flood. Her biggest dream is to fix it up, restoring it to its former glory. Unfortunately, times are tough and her only tenants can’t afford to pay her rent, instead swapping board for fishes and crystals, respectively.
Rosa despairs further when her flaky tenant Jen’s spritual partner Cosmos rocks up at the house. Initially it seems he’ll bring in useful practical skills that could work to Rosa’s advantage but he lets her down by tearing up her floorboards to make a boat for her other tenant Elias to sail away in.
Unexpectedly saddened by Elias’ departure, and Jen’s imminent plan to leave, Rosa must think again about her big dream – and whether Elias’ departing words, that she’s afraid to leave – are true. Will the surrounding water and mist help Rosa make some hard life decisions – and what’s that massive leaver all about?
I don’t really get what it all means honestly, the themes are varied and bleak (in my opinion). Be careful what you wish for, don’t dream outside your station, take that fucking boat trip while you can. I guess the meaning is down to the individual to decide.
I can’t find much more to say other than it looks beautiful and is a slow burn that sometimes pays off and sometimes doesn’t. The ultimate highlight for me is the visit from the police, requesting the rat developer refrains from leaving detailed voicemail messages for his dentist. This detail amplifies the character’s isolation and loneliness, and is truly heartbreaking.
Ultimately I’m glad I took more from The House the second time around, though I’m not sure I’ll be putting in my Best of 2022 list.