Erik Stoneheart {Children’s International Film Festival/CHIFF} – Film Review

Imagine being uprooted from your comfortable life at the age of 11, only to be moved across the country to a creepy mansion that your parents have inherited. That’s exactly the case for Erik, a young boy who feels forgotten and neglected by his parents. But he’ll be okay because he has a heart of stone. Nothing can scare or hurt him! Or so he thinks…

While the house looks old, dusty, and abandoned, Erik soon discovers there are ‘bad people’ living in a wing of the house. But his parents have other plans, giving the tenants, a man and his daughter, an eviction notice soon after their arrival. However, Erik doesn’t want to stay at the creepy mansion, so befriends the daughter, Maria, to hatch a plan to find her mother, who is stuck in the ‘in-between-world’ on a ship called The Ouraboros.

The children soon discover the ship and Maria’s mother, who has been kidnapped, brainwashed by a band of wild pirates, and doesn’t recognise Maria. Together, Maria and Erik must work together to make her mother remember her, save her from the pirates, and save her home too!

Erik Stoneheart is a film that tackles a lot of themes including death, loss, grief, acceptance, and some mentions of the paranormal. Also, the major themes that I felt were a driving narrative were about individuality and being yourself. Especially when it came to the pirate characters, a ragtag bunch of punk/goth shipmates all with their unique looks and styles. One even had a paint tin on his head! Then when it comes to Erik, the film’s messages through him advises to remain strong, not waver under fear, nor change yourself to please others. Be yourself, be proud and embrace it!

Erik Stoneheart was originally created in Estonia and has been over dubbed in English which has actually been done quite well. The only gripe I have is that it’s obvious the children have been voiced by adults. While I can understand why they used adults, I found it to be a little distracting and felt that broke the 4th wall a little. The film honestly had a real anime kind of vibe to it, which isn’t a hugely bad thing, but I believe it just didn’t quite fit. In all honesty, I personally would have preferred subtitles.

I really loved the creative choices and general aesthetic of the film. The world created on the Ouraboros is dark, gritty, and grotty, like a Madmax at sea! I felt it suited and captured the in-between-world vibe while not making things too scary for a younger audience. The pirate costumes were fantastic too, making them look mean and scary with a fantasy twist, but not too over the top.

Erik Stoneheart is the perfect and inspiring film for pre-teen audiences. I really enjoyed this film as the story has a great heart and is well written and executed. The film truly captures the imaginative ways children deal with their grief and hold on to hope without being too in your face or overly dumbed down.

Erik Stoneheart embraces and encourages the point of being remaining true to who you are, an important message I resonate with so much.

Erik Stoneheart is currently playing as part of of the 2023 Children’s International Film Festival (CHIFF) until June 12.
For more information and ticketing, visit:
https://www.chiff.com.au/films/erik-stoneheart

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