Eo – movie review

A donkey embarks on an existential journey and witnesses the best and worst of humanity in the latest quirky film from revered Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski (Essential Killing).

Both visually and thematically it is an ugly film. A mob of soccer hooligans almost beat Eo to death mistaking it for the mascot for the opposition team. A truck driver who shows kindness to a woman at a truck stop has his throat cut. It also looks at how man exploits animals and treats them badly in circuses, on farms and even slaughters them for food.

After the circus in which Eo performs is closed due to bankruptcy, the animals are sold off, and thus begins Eo’s journey. The script from Skolimowski and his wife Ewa Piaskowska (who co-wrote Essential Killing) serves up a series of vignettes, many of which are unresolved as the film moves on to another incident. This is his first film in seven years and was largely inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1966 film Au hasard Balthazar. The pacing is somewhat plodding. And Skolimowski adopts a more observational approach.

Six different donkeys play Eo throughout the film and they all have expressive eyes that seem to be giving insight into his observations of the world around him. At least Skolimowski resisted the urge to give voice to the sentient creature, a device that undoubtedly a Hollywood filmmaker would have employed.

There is some interesting cinematography from Michal Dymek (Cold War), capturing the landscapes of Poland and Italy; he also gives us shots from Eo’s point of view. Some scenes are bathed in vivid red, symbolic of blood maybe? There is even an evocative sequence in which Eo approaches a windmill that is probably an allusion to Don Quixote and the futility of his quest.

The film is largely dialogue free apart from a late sequence featuring a brief appearance from Isabelle Huppert, which makes little sense at all.

Heaps of critics have fallen over themselves to lavish praise on the film, but the quirky Eo is definitely not a film that holds broad appeal for mainstream audiences. There have been many films about cute animals on a long journey – Lassie Come Home, Milo & Otis, and The Incredible Journey – that have been more enjoyable.

Greg King

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