Although the world of animation has often been used to bring the impossible to life, animators have also been keen to literally draw our attention to matters of reality.

This is the perfect example, based on the true story of German artist Charlotte Salomon.

boom reviews charlotte
There's something about painting by numnbers that is so relaxing.

Although her parents are keen to have her in a secure job, young Charlotte (Keira Knightley) has ideas of her own – she wants to be an artist. She’s so passionate about it – as well as clearly talented – she manages to get herself enrolled in a prestigious school of art, despite her being a Jew, which in these uncertain times, is proving to be highly problematic for all institutions.

This becomes more evident with the rise of the Nazi party, forcing her out of Berlin, resulting in her staying with her grandparents, where she manages to start to painting. But with Hitler’s reach stretching further, and Britain and France declaring war with Germany, nowhere in Europe feels safe for Charlotte to live never mind continue her painting.

boom reviews charlotte
So I have something I have to admit, I prefer manga. There, I said it.

As features go, this comes across very much as a passion project. Sadly, this passion is somewhat misplaced, as an animated story doesn’t feel as if it was the best route to go.

It has to be said, the animation is very much on the simple side. There isn’t much in the way of detail, particularly when it comes to facial expressions, which means the voiceover does most of the emotional heavy lifting. Unfortunately, despite the excellent vocal talent that also includes Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn, Sam Clafin, Eddie Marsan, Sophie Okonedo, Mark Strong, and the late Helen McCrory, there’s an annoying juxtaposition between a simple art style and over acting vocally, which is really quite jarring.

It’s not helped by the fact that despite the dramatic period, the story is quite dull, as it mostly follows Charlotte from want pleasant locale to the next.

Also, there’s a subplot as it were, of a murder in the family, which is delivered so matter of factly and then completely ignored. If what the film hints at did take place, it’s a huge plot twist that could certainly change your opinion on the entire situation.

There’s even more clutter when the issue of mental health is raised, and what you would think to be a more pressing matter of Nazis hunting down and killing Jews would be more prevalent, but no.

Ironically, the film doesn’t really come to life until the end credits, when it shows actual filmed footage of her father, which is truly fascinating. This only reinforces the fact that this film, and certainly its material, would have been far better off as an actual documentary, as this animated form sadly only hinders the story.

The recent animated feature Where is Anne Frank, with is similar historical background, used its core material and came at it from a completely unique perspective, which made it far more compelling. That’s not to say the same should have been done here, just that its execution could have been given more thought.

Her actual art work, of which there was over a 1000 examples making up her collection known as “Life? Or Theatre?”, which is often cited as being an early example of a graphic novel, certainly would have benefitted from being displayed within a documentary, as its impact is completely lost here.

Sadly Charlotte is an example of an interesting premise that is just lost in this mediocre animated form.

we give this two out of five