Dave McKean is best known for his ground-breaking animation on DC titles like Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth and The Sandman series, so to see a film of his that merges his distinctive animated style with live-action drama was to be a treat in his second feature Luna.
Four people spend a weekend in an idyllic isolated English seaside home, three of whom are middle-aged and shared a youth together, couple Grant (Ben Daniels) and Christine (Dervla Kirwan), and Dean (Michael Maloney) who is in a relationship with a significantly younger Fraya (Stephanie Leonidas), only for this to be subverted when pains of grief, loss and regret begin to surface.
It’s important to note director/writer McKean spoke extensively about how personal this project was to him, specifically of an old-friend in art school, which is made apparent without this prior information. How the subject matters are tackled are done with such precision and care that it’d be naïve to assume this could be a wholly imaginary experience. McKean never specified the incident at hand but it becomes readily apparent when viewing Luna.
The animation, which McKean quasi-joked ‘don’t ask me “what do they mean?”’, is wrought with meaning and interpretation as the fantasy and the real become intertwined and almost indistinguishable. This is a subject matter McKean feels strongly about and to which there is an extensively heated, and drunken, debate between Grant and Dean. In short, reality only occurs in the immediate and everything prior and post is entirely imaginary. This perspective intertwines both narratively and visually with the film’s themes, for it profoundly questions how much does one’s own past grievances and guilt become manifested into something more or less real in the present day person. It’s an intellectually challenging philosophy but it’s McKean’s animation and the convincing performances that eases viewers through such ideas.
The surreal animation and its narrative experimentation between realities assist in both the characters confronting their truths and grief, and in tackling the subjectivity of truth. It lays out the subject matter first and the animation to follow, which presents many interpretations of the animated sequences. It’s not entirely easy viewing as the reality shifts can distract one from penetrating the emotional pain the characters are feeling, but its visual splendor will bring audiences to reinterpret these and discover, possibly, deeper meanings.