Written and directed by Xiaopeng Tian, whose film Monkey King: Hero Is Back broke Chinese box-office records, Deep Sea stuns with cutting-edge 3D animation showcasing an innovative, painterly style inspired by classical Chinese ink brush art. Visually lush, the psychedelic, underwater world swirls around the sadness of a little girl, Shenxiu (Wang Ting Wen), who longs to connect with her absent mother. As she journeys to the bottom of the ocean, Shenxiu befriends a mythical multi-eyed blob of a sea-creature, the Hyjinx, and a fast-talking rogue of a chef, Nanhe (Su Xin), who turns out to have a heart of gold.
The multi-layered story tackles loss and depression in the form of the feared Red Phantom and counterpoints its serious themes with cute baby otter waiters serving over-indulged fishy customers and chubby, determined walruses mad-pedaling Nanhe’s ramshackle cruise-ship-restaurant into the eye of the Deep Sea. The kaleidoscope of grief, hope, sacrifice, and survival all come together in a cascading explosion of color and sound.––Simone Ling