Rosie Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh) in Window Horses (National Film Board of Canada)

 What a treat. Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses is a beautiful, deeply empathetic, world-embracing lip smack of an animated film that successfully combines coming-of-age angst, Persian poetry, and the love and discovery of one’s heritage.

Rosie Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh) is your average half-Chinese, half-Iranian Canadian young woman in love with France and its poetry. She self-publishes “like, three copies” of her a book, entitled My Eye Full, Poems by a Person Who Has Never Been to France, and is mysteriously invited to a poetry festival in the Iranian city of Shiraz. With her grandparent’s blessing (her mother is dead, and father long gone), she takes her first-ever trip and is immersed in a world of poetry and her awakening sense of identity and confidence.

Ming is drawn with a round face and simple stick arms and legs, while everyone else has full bodies, perfectly capturing the alienation that teenagers tend to feel vis-à-vis the outside world. (Though she’s twentysomething, Ming has the naivety of someone much younger.) Much of the film is animated with simple clear lines. But other more complex styles break in as characters recite poetry, making the palette consistently fresh, innovative, and surprising. Fleming farmed out the poetic sequences to various animators who have their own specific style. A canny move that keeps the eye occupied.

There is a mystery to be solved—Ming doesn’t know who invited her to this festival. It turns out many people know of her father, and the picture they paint does not jibe with the one she has of a man who abandoned his family. Essentially, we follow Rosie on a journey of self-discovery that for her is alternately exhilarating, terrifying, and frustrating. Imaginatively, Fleming specifically captures that universal journey in Window Horses.

Written and Directed by Ann Marie Fleming
Released by First Pond Entertainment
Canada. 83 min. Not rated

Window Horses Official Trailer (HD) from First Pond on Vimeo.