After a breakup, we often need a moment of reinvention. However, getting transported to a mythical world is not usually in the cards. Unicorn Boy, a new animated feature from Matt Kiel, pushes its protagonist into chasing a new life. Using themselves as a model for its protagonist, Kiel pushes the visual envelope while maintaining its unique voice. While the last act gets a little too loose, Unicorn Boy shows flourishes of brilliance.
Matty struggles to put his life back together after breaking up with a partner. He regrets his choice to break up with his girlfriend instantly, and feeling alone sends him toward depression. While grabbing coffee with his friend Sethward (voiced by the actor of the same name), he’s transported to a mystical land. After befriending Prince Purpleton (Sarah Natochenny), Matty realizes he can help save the Unicorn Kingdom from an unusual threat.
Kiel brings a surrealist edge to Unicorn Boy that instantly pays dividends. It looks wholly unique, allowing characters to take on unusual characteristics. The use of color allows Unicorn Boy to both excite and calm. The majority of the animation relies on pastels. Yet when the unicorn, Prince Purpleton, arrives he literally vomits up rainbow paint all over the canvas. The color itself is gorgeous, and draws attention to it with how bright it shines. Even within shots, characters vary in their depiction of realism, which further adds to both the fantastical nature of the world.
The awkward comedy serves as a double eyed sword. Some awkward pacing makes it difficult to stay fully engaged at times. Unicorn Boy tries to turn these moments into jokes, and does convert on a few of these. When it converts, Kiel lands some of the best laughs of the movie. When trying to utilize the awkward and off-putting comedy style, these moments often result in feast or famine results.
The ultimate point of Unicorn Boy rests in its moments of transformation. For Matty the character, these moments are earned. Kiel explains how Matty found himself directionless, and with help, he’s found his path forward. The comes from embracing an entirely new identity.
Early in the film, there’s an acknowledgment Kiel went through their own journey of self discovery. As the story bears his name and some celebrities playing themselves, it’s impossible to shake this as an intensely personal story. The audience can feel that passion throughout the film, and it helps Unicorn Boy stand out as a surrealist but pathos driven work.