Sébastien Laudenbach's hand-animated The Girl Without Hands tells a comparatively obscure Brothers Grimm story that you already know even if you've never read it, and does so in a unique way. In exchange for turning the water flowing through his mill into gold, a starving miller (Olivier Broche) accidentally sells his daughter (Anaïs Demoustier) to the devil (Philippe Laudenbach). The girl spends most of her time in the apple tree that her father thought he was selling — making the sale a dick move by any standard — but when her connection to nature prevents the devil from collecting his due, the miller chops down the tree and cuts off the girl's hands as a compromise. And that's when her troubles begin, as she seeks refuge without hands in the wilderness, the devil still on her trail.
The real draw of Laudenbach's film is the animation, composed of forever-undulating paintings that create a dreamy fluidity to match the story's naturalistic themes. (The majority of the girl's fluids eventually make appearances; nature calls even when hiding in a tree from the devil.) But of all its visual marvels, The Girl Without Hands' highlight is a purple-hued nighttime forest, which makes Avatar's Pandora look dim. So much can still be accomplished with paint and passion.
Sébastien LaudenbachAnaïs Demoustier, Jérémie Elkaïm, Philippe Laudenbach, Olivier Broche, Françoise Lebrun, Sacha Bourdo, Elina LöwensohnGKIDS