Movie Review: EO may be too light on action for some, but deep below this story about a donkey traveling the lands of Poland and modern Europe lies truths about human impact on our planet. It may not be the easiest film to connect with sitting on your couch, but its final moments will surely land a punishing hit.
The Oscar for most heartwarmingly sweet animal in a motion picture goes to: EO. The donkey that carries Jerzy Skolimowski’s newest ode to Earthly charm and nature’s beauty. EO is up for best international feature at the 2023 Oscars, and it’s not particularly shocking to see why. The Academy seems more interested than ever in rewarding meditative, deeply insular and quiet dramas, especially in the international features race. Drive My Car and The Worst Person in the World seemed to open the floodgates to this style of filmmaking in awards shows, and it’s not surprising to see EO follow in their footsteps.
I think I admire and respect EO a bit more than I actually like EO. It’s extremely sentimental and loving about the world that humans inhabit and the animals that we live with day-to-day. Perhaps the most effective moments of EO are when you witness humans eliminating habitats shaping the world to best suite ourselves. The movie has an innate love for Earth’s beauty and nature, and the most soul-crushing moments are when people afflict damage on that natural beauty.
I’m not too familiar with past works by Jerzy Skolimowski, but my intrigue is heightened after seeing EO. This feels like the work of a director decades into his/her career and choosing to venture off to do their own passion project. And maybe that’s the best way to put Skolimowski’s latest film: a passion project, passionate about putting man’s acts on trial during a subliminal and nuanced story of a donkey wandering through life.
EO is certainly going to be a confusing movie for some. It’s told wholeheartedly through the eyes of its titular donkey. The world is a confusing place for the animals that don’t construct the infrastructure they live in or the paths they walk on. Skolimowski’s greatest feat here is that he reinvents the world through a new set of eyes in an attempt to disorient the viewer. And it works. EO works strictly on the senses, and it relies on you being able to stay locked in and emotionally connect for the full ride.
I watched EO at home. The movie recently hit The Criterion Channel and it was one of the few 2022 releases I still hadn’t had the opportunity to check out. I imagine EO plays differently when you’re in the theater and you’re able to lock in with the innocent donkey during the entire ride. I didn’t have that luxury, and in turn I had a bit of a rough time staying focused on nature’s beauty during this film. That doesn’t mean it’s entirely boring or uninteresting, but sometimes the way you consume a piece of art greatly impacts how it resonates with you.
The movie weaves between small vignettes during EO’s travels, and the characters you think you might see for the duration of the movie quickly leave and are never seen from again. EO wanders between good situations and bad ones – characters that seem interested in helping the poor animal, and ones that carelessly harm him. As I’ve mentioned, EO genuinely loves the world, and therefore hates human destruction and indecency.
There’s a nihilistic blanket over EO that I found quite engaging and interesting. It’s as if the Skolimowski didn’t block or write any of EO and chose instead to follow the donkey and see who’s path he may cross. Even if Skolimowski did sit down and write a script for EO, it couldn’t have been a long one. There are long stretches of this movie that contain no dialogue or human characters at all. EO doesn’t need companionship. He wants to be left alone.
And then the final moments hit and the message becomes much clearer and heartbreaking. If you’re not vegan before this movie, you might be after it. There are noticeable hints of Bong Joon-ho littered throughout EO, but none more obvious than its nods to Okja during the third act. I thought the movie was powerfully direct but needlessly light up until those final moments. Then it all switched up and became much more potent.
I liked EO, but I’m not sure I could completely wrap my arms around it from the confines of my own living room. It has a tender and humane story that culminates in a jarring finale, but I wouldn’t say I’m dying to revisit it. Not everything is about rewatchability, but my first reaction to EO wasn’t visceral enough to overcome the timeless factor of it. Good boy.
EO is available to stream on The Criterion Channel
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EO Cast and Credits
Sandra Drzymalska as Kasandra
Isabelle Huppert as The Countess
Lorenzo Zurzolo as Vito
Mateusz Kościukiewicz as Mateo
Tomasz Organek as Ziom
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cinematography: Michal Dymek
Editor: Agnieszka Glińska
Composer: Paweł Mykietyn
EO movie on Letterboxd
EO movie on IMDb