Coco is a vibrant film not just for the incredibly intricate world it builds in the “Land of the Dead,” but for the life it imagines for the ancestors of its central character, an aspiring young musician named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez).
In the film’s first act, we get to see Miguel interact with several generations of his devoted family, including his parents, abuelita and his great-grandmother, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía). It’s clear that his family wants Miguel to be included and to be part of their legacy — it’s their prerogative to keep the family together, and they see music as something that would tear them all apart. Family is at the core of this film, and it’s blissfully sentimental.
Several scenes from Coco are standouts — the first sight of the Land of the Dead, the revelation of the identity of Miguel’s long-lost great-great-grandfather and ancestral reunions on the other side come to mind — but the most special moment of the film comes after Miguel finally returns to the Land of the Living. Having met Coco’s long-lost father in the Land of the Dead, Miguel’s number one priority is going to Coco and reminding her of her father.
You see, Coco hardly speaks throughout the film — in truth, her visual appearance is also a rare treat — but her presence is felt in every scene. Each family member, living and gone, is there because of her. She is the core of the family. The fact that death will soon find her is made less tragic after we’ve seen her parents waiting for her in the Land of the Dead, especially because we know her family will not forget her in the Land of the Living.
And so, it is deeply affecting when Miguel plays a song for Coco, one her father wrote for her before he disappeared, as she smiles brilliantly and sings along.
Featured image via Pixar.