Her mother an iconic filmmaker renowned in the stop motion animation community who has now lost the ability to continue her craft through crippling arthritis, Ella Blake has instead become her hands, her friends moving ahead in their careers while she is micromanaged and belittled by her mother who uses her as nothing more than another tool, a surrogate for her own hands, just another puppet she must manipulate to achieve her art.

Suzanne hospitalised after a stroke, at first Ella intends to continue with her mother’s film until her boyfriend Tom arranges for her to move into a new space, a flat in an empty block scheduled for renovation where she begins a new project prompted by a strange child who suggests a new direction, a tale to unfold over three encounters across three nights of a girl lost in the woods pursued by the sinister Ash Man.

A blend of live action and animation, a world within a world within the mind of the frustrated creator, Stopmotion is directed by Robert Morgan from a script co-written with Robin King, starring The Nightingale’s Aisling Franciosi as Ella, House of Elliott’s Stella Gonet as the monstrous Suzanne, Poldark’s Tom York as the well-meaning but bland Tom and The Witcher’s Therica Wilson-Read as his snooty sister Polly, also a filmmaker who works in advertising.

Opening with a scene of flickering coloured lights flickering over Ella’s face in a stroboscopic effect, hypnotic and disconcerting, the images disjointed rather than the smooth flow which creates the illusion of movement in animation, Stopmotion is a film about technique and presentation which allows itself to be dominated by that technique in the same way as Ella is overwhelmed by her mother.

A film about filmmaking like Berberian Sound Studio and Censor which also echoes the spinning Kaleidoscope in its maternal resentment, Ella matches her mother’s intensity and focus, dedicated to nothing but the task but despite seeking freedom to express herself she comes to realise she has no voice of her own, lost in the woods in the same way as the character suggested by the persistent child (Caoilinn Springall) who is conspicuously not noticed by her other visitors.

The animated interludes dynamic and vivid, Stopmotion may be unusual but it fails to engender any sympathy for the human characters struggling with the burden of their inherited legacy as they work in the media, live in luxurious flats, attend parties and indulge in plagiarism and drugs, precious Ella reacting with outrage when Tom suggests she might do anything so common as to get a paying job, the wax simulacra more engaging than Ella’s descent into madness, self-mutilation and murder.

Stopmotion will be available on Shudder from Friday 31st May



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