There’s a sadness and depth of emotion in a donkeys eyes that we’ll probably never fully understand. Gentle yet strong creatures, it’s as if they carry the weight of the world at times, but also understand why they must shoulder this heavy burden. Fitting then that the protagonist of EO, an allegory for the kind of migration happening each day with more frequency across our planet, is one of the most tender and soulful grey donkeys ever captured on screen.
Veteran Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski is all too aware of the fact that EO’s sad eyes will endear themselves to most audiences pretty quickly as our titular donkey begins an arduous journey across Poland and Italy. His morality tale is full of sentimentality and beauty, moments of humour and grace but ultimately Skolimowski is unsympathetic to the plight of his star as he invites the audience to consider how we must look to an animal subject to our whims and even cruelties.
On the surface it’s a road movie in broad strokes, as we travel from one place to the next in the hooves of EO, some more favourable than others and on the way meet all manner of people with all manner of intentions for this animal. Dig a little deeper though and you may find that EO’s story is not dissimilar from that of a great many people being uprooted and dispersed from their homes at the moment, forced to undertake treacherous journeys and often finding themselves at the mercy of a handful of strangers as they seek to settle somewhere safe once more. Gorgeously shot with the camera doing an incredible job of conveying the film from the point of view of an animal, it’s a testament to cinematographer Michal Dymek that EO’s sense of wonder and awe but also disorientation and jarring fear are all so perfectly conveyed through his lens.
EO is delicate and haunting tale that will linger long after its brief running time. As beautiful as it is challenging, the majesty of the film is it’s a story about the human condition that just so happens to be told through the eyes of wandering donkey.