Full of loss, wonder, and mystery, Hugo is a visual feast—a feast to be lingered over rather than quickly consumed. Young Hugo, an orphan, is mourning the death of his father and surviving on his own after his alcoholic uncle disappears. He secretly takes over his uncle’s job of maintaining and winding the clocks at the train station, living a life hidden behind clock faces and machinery. Keeping the spirit of Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the depictions of the clockworks and 1930s Paris are captivating and mysterious.
Hugo’s encounters with a bitter shopkeeper and the Station Inspector leave him fearful for his future, but his developing friendship with young Isabelle gives him hope that things could get better. Themes of healing and restoration abound and offer an opportunity for discussion with young moviegoers.
The movie is as much for film buffs as for kids, as it explores the earliest years of moving pictures. Part of the story concerns the life of filmmaker Georges Méliès. A couple of the “humorous” scenes might leave parents shifting in their seats momentarily, but they are quickly forgotten as the story moves along at a more stately, less frenetic pace than most movies for young people. (Paramount)