Goodbye Don Glee! Review – Fantasia International Film Festival

Reading time: 2 minutes

I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, especially when they’re animated. So, Goodbye Don Glee! is right up my alley. Animated by Studio Madhouse and distributed in North America by GKIDS Films, Goodbye Don Glee! is the directorial debut of Atsuko Ishizuka, which she also wrote. It shows the small town blues and promises of the future that summer brings, and how our lives change when summer ends.

Two boys at the bottom of their high school social hierarchy, Roma and Toto, are best friends. But with nothing to do in this small farming town and no friends outside of themselves, they call themselves the “Don Glees”. Equipped with a fort in the woods, the duo find joy in each other. But while Toto is at school in Tokyo, a new member has joined him. Named Drop, the young addition to their group is irresponsible and fun-loving, albeit a bit wistful beneath the surface. Celebrating summer with their own tradition of fireworks is exciting, but when a wildfire breaks out, the boys of Don Glees are the ones to blame with only a missing drone as proof of their innocence. As they head for the mountains, they embark on a life-changing adventure that will ripple through their lives.

Studio Madhouse’s animation is immersive with the background animation as much a spectacle as the characters in the foreground. The places highlighted in Goodbye Don Glee! feel lived in, the lush forests feel real beyond belief. The solid backgrounds allow the character to come out of it with a vibrancy that adds to every emotion we see on screen.

Goodbye Don Glee! is a coming-of-age story that focuses on the ripples that emanate from any given moment. It has humor, it has friendship, and in its final act, heartache. But more important, Goodbye Don Glee! is to celebrate life and have the courage to jump in and see things you’ve missed before. It’s a story of hope after loss and how the impact we have on people lasts long after we’re gone.

With awe-inspiring landscapes and warm connections, Goodbye Don Glee stirs the soul. It starts small – a story we’ve seen before about a group of irresponsible friends trying to right their mistake – and grows into something lasting. For her feature debut, Ishizuka pulled out all the narrative stops and created a story that builds itself bigger through small moments. Leaving me to cry at the end, Goodbye Don Glee! has a heart and a purpose that showcases the magic of animation. While the first two acts are typical of the genre, the finale is where the film hits a new high.

Goodbye Don Glee! tasks its characters and audience, in the final act of the film, to take the risk, go on an adventure, and live your life, however fleeting, to the fullest extent possible. He asks you to jump without looking and never be afraid to see your life and the lives of others from a different perspective. At just over 90 minutes, Goodbye Don Glee! packs a punch in the gut while providing balm to the soul at the same time.

Goodbye Don Glee! screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Goodbye Don Glee!

8.5/10

TL:DR

At just over 90 minutes, Goodbye Don Glee! packs a punch in the gut while providing balm to the soul at the same time.

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