Hugo Cabret lives in the walls of a busy railway station in Paris, running through the corridors and passageways to wind the clocks and oil the moving parts that keep the train station functioning on time. As long as he goes undetected by the station inspector, he can live alone and continue working on the one thing that he believes will bring his father back; a broken automaton, a mechanical man his father found in the attic of a museum.
It’s a story about love and family. Finding a place to belong. Serving your purpose and finding your joy.
Although his mother has died, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) and his father (Jude Law) live a relatively happy existence, fixing clocks, going to the movies, and in their spare time they attempt to repair a broken automaton. Their world has golden glow and things seem gentle and warm, until a fire engulfs the museum his father works in and Hugo is sent to live with his alcoholic uncle in the railway station of Gare Montparnasse. The sunniness leaves his world and instead of living, Hugo merely survives.
Martin Scorsese directs this beautifully shot film, set in 1930’s Paris. In the opening shot, the city morphs from the inner workings of old clocks and right from the start, everything seems enchanted. As sad and unfortunate as Hugo’s story is when we meet him, his new life certainly is interesting. We are introduced to the other characters through Hugo’s eyes, spying from behind clock faces and grates; the stern toy maker and his goddaughter, Ben Kingsley and Chloe Grace Moretz, the mysterious book seller, Christopher Lee. The blossoming relationships between the flower seller and the station inspector, Emily Mortimer and Sasha Baron Cohen, and the restaurant owner and newspaper salesman Francis de la Tour and Richard Griffiths (and their dachshunds). The growing friendship between two orphans, one with a lock, and one with a heart-shaped key. Connections are important. Finding the right cog to make the clock tick, finding the right friend to make your life complete.
It is a gorgeous film. The sets are fantastic, especially the inner workings of the station walls. There is a real sense of adventure and magic, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire magical experience.
Hugo is partially based on the life of filmmaker and illusionist Georges Melies, and ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’, an historical fiction novel written by Brian Selznick, and was shown as part of the Adelaide French Festival, January 11-13, 2019.
Review by Carly Whittaker