I didn’t know what to expect out of a film with a title of only two letters: EO. I garnered that the donkey on the film’s poster was probably EO and this reminded me of the donkey Eeyore in Winnie-the-Pooh. Possibly, encountering this depressed-donkey trope in EO scared me because I am generally much more affected by the plights of non-human animals rather than human. Creatures like EO are intensely vulnerable because they don’t understand the mechanics behind human-induced events which harm them.
I was right to be worried, EO the donkey certainly does endure a lot in this film, but he also goes on an adventure. Just like most twenty-somethings, I am longing to go on the kind of adventure EO does in this film; he traverses forests, meets new people and animals, experiences love, is taken in and lives inside the homes of strangers, etc. Unfortunately, pain is part and parcel of life, even for EO.
There was a little bit of an ugly duckling bent running through EO. EO commonly finds himself in the company of horses, but he lacks the romanticised body of a horse and their capability to be vehicular for adult humans. Audiences therefore aren’t mystified by EO’s beauty, or connecting to EO because they are physically dependent. Viewers relate to EO because they come to know and recognise him as an individual.
Upon leaving the cinema, I was curious to know what others’ thought about EO, a film which centred a non-human animal without anthropomorphising them. Famous animal stories like Call of The Wild comparatively give a human voice to non-human animals (i.e. Buck the dog), or are created in conjunction with the life of a human character, such as in Flicka. I heard people say they thought the film was “very sad” and lacked narrative direction, but I disagree. EO is sad, and not every scene is steeped in easy-to-decipher metaphors and symbolism, but I found this refreshingly realistic rather than confusing or meaningless.
In a human-led story it is considered an aesthetic choice to depict a human’s weathering journey crossing fields, streams, and mountain ranges, so why not here? In a human-led story, the losses of characters are felt deeply by the audience, because we empathise with them, and this is cathartic and poignant. I would venture to say instead, that this was a challenging film, not a nonsensical one, for myself included.
The creative cinematography, offering erratic transitions and shots through different lenses, was explorative of a set of senses which we can never know—that of a donkey’s—as were the focused sounds of machinery, hooves on ground, and flaring nostrils.
EO is beautifully poetic, and aware of what it is trying to do. It is able to laugh at itself, and we laugh at EO because we see ourselves in his bad luck, his extremely good luck, and his tragedy. We empathise with EO because he is lost and looking for love, because he is mortal, because he is brave, and because he is alienly gentle.
EO is playing at UWA’s Somerville Theatre until the 3rd December as a part of Perth Festival 2024. Get your tickets here.