Mavka: The Forest Song is a film based on a famous 1911 Ukrainian poetic play by Lesya Ukrainka, adapted into an animated children’s film by Ukraine Animation Studio, Animagrad.
Our story begins in the magical Ukrainian forest, a place where the forest’s source of life and the creatures within reside together. Years ago, when guardians and creatures looked over this power, a human walked into the forest seeking this source of life to help save his dying newborn daughter. However, this results in the same human returning but bringing his entire army with him to take control and ownership of the elusive forest’s power, resulting in a battle between the humans and the forest, creating the never-ending rivalry of the two parties.
After our tale is told, we are then introduced to Mavka (voiced by Laurie Hynes) a kind-hearted nymph residing in the Ukrainian forest, tasked with ensuring to protect the forest at all costs, especially against intruding humans who may enter. When she meets and falls for a human, Lucas (voiced by Eddy Lee), things begin to change. Mavka’s perception on whether humans are really bad is questioned, whilst a sinister plot slowly unfolds along the way that spells out danger for all.
Mavka: The Forest Song is an absolute visual treat. I couldn’t help but admire how stunningly gorgeous the CGI was. From the colourful and pretty dramatics, combined with the picturesque scenery of the forest and hills, to the creative and imaginative character designs of the various woodland creatures ranging from small and cute to huge and mighty, you can tell a lot of love and care went into making this film. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time a children’s CGI film blew me away with its vivid visuals. Not even a Pixar film. This is truly Mavka: The Forest Song’s standout feature and selling point, enticing you to watch.
While the story is based on famous Ukrainian literature, this film has been slightly altered to appeal to younger audiences. Because of this, whilst the background and origin story of the original poem ‘The Forest Song’ is fascinating to read about, Mavka: The Forest Song, is a lot more of a familiar tale.
It’s an animated children’s story and narrative you’ve seen before in plenty of other films. You know the familiarity of it once you start to watch it and chances are, you’ll know exactly where this movie will take you towards in its final act. This of course is not a bad thing but Mavka: The Forest Song and its underlying themes are not exactly original. Therefore, it’s very much a kind of ‘been there, done that’ sort of feeling once you get settled into the opening intro.
Children will enjoy the storytelling that Mavka: The Forest Song provides with its themes of love and nature. But parents and/or other adults will know what to expect in the coming 90 minutes of runtime. Thankfully, it does help that the story and its characters are likable and there aren’t any annoying or frustrating characters you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes at any time they speak. There are however comic relief characters, both humans and forest creatures, that provide sensible laughs here and there.
Adding on to this positive note, there is a good cast of talented voice actors that provide great performances and don’t sound over the top or underwhelming. Laurie Hymes as the voice of our titular character Mavka, is excellent and brings a real sense of kindness and calmness to the character that is well established very early on in the film.
Mavka: The Forest Song is a stunning cinematic animation that is well worth the trip to the cinema to see on the big screen. Based upon a fascinating origin story of the 1911 poem, it adapts a serviceable-but-familiar story that kids will surely enjoy.