Film Review – by Morgan Thistlethwaite

Once upon a time I was a collector of those postcards that you often find in cafes around Melbourne. You know the sort, they’re usually on a rack somewhere near a window, and there’s about twelve different kinds promoting new films or exhibitions.

Back then I rarely took notice of what the cards were selling and only picked them up because I liked the images. I still have one that I found on a day not unlike any other, of a boy and a strange creature/machine walking side by side.

The Lost Thing (Shaun Tan)


I stuck this picture on the wall of my closet-sized bedroom where it stayed until I moved house.

Its now in a box, somewhere along with all the other trinkets and memories from that time, and was mostly forgotten about until about four years later when I was working one day at the video store. One of my regulars came up to the counter with a handful of DVDs. At the end of the transaction he asked if I’d accept a donation for the store.

“What are you thinking of?” I asked.

“It’s a short animated film based on one of my books,” he said. “It received a few awards at some festivals and I’d like the store to have a copy, so it can be seen by others.”

I agreed to take it. Thanking me, he handed me his DVD and left. I turned the box over in my hands to see the cover. The Lost Thing, it read, and under the title, a picture of the boy and creature/machine from my old bedroom wall.

lost thing dvd

That evening I took the disc home to check it out. I can count the number of films that, once the end credits finish rolling, I put straight back on to watch again. This is one of them.

The beautifully-rendered computer animation of Leo baker brings Shaun Tan’s original art to life in a way that is truly magical, managing to emulate Tan’s picture-to-picture comic book style in moments while also creating a truly cinematic experience. Tan’s deceptively simple-looking designs are perfect for this style of animation that adds depth and character to a world already brimming with imagination and soul.

lost thing screenshot

A lesson in understatement, the contemplative score counters the naturalistic sound design of the film perfectly. Tim Minchin, you may have heard of him, delivers narration with a quiet ‘every man’ approach that really draws you in, adding to this understated tone.

All of this was a long time ago and a few months after Shaun donated the DVD to my store, the film won an Oscar for Best Animated Short.

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