- Charlie Mackesy’s book comes to life in heart-warming movie directed by Peter Baynton
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse is a book by Charlie Mackesy that teaches us about love, kindness and friendship through a simple story and beautiful illustrations. The book, which is loved by many across the globe, comes to life in a 32-minute animated film directed by Peter Baynton.
The movie was released on Christmas Day 2022, and feels like a warm hug that we all need. There are certain differences between the movie and the book, but, especially given Mackesy’s involvement in the movie, it comes as no surprise that they both do an excellent job of driving home some excellent messages. While spoilers are to follow, the book is a definite must-read, and the film is one you simply must watch.
Both the book and the movie begin with the Boy (voiced by Jude Coward Nicoll) meeting the Mole (voiced by Tom Hollander). The movie gives their meeting more context; the Boy is lost, and the Mole helps him find his way home.
The Mole’s love for cake, which is such a lovely part of the book, makes its way to film as well, without making it too unrealistic. For instance, the Mole mistakes a large tree for cake, and describes a cake shop when asked about home. The Mole shares his favourite saying, which is: “If at first you don’t succeed, have some cake.”
During the movie, the Mole asks the Boy what he wants to be when he grows up, to which the boy responds by saying he wants to be kind. There is then silence between the characters, as the viewer is also given a moment to reflect on this, before the Mole says: “Nothing beats kindness. It sits quietly beyond all things.”
Kindness is one of the central themes in the story. There’s kindness when the Boy picks up the Mole, and carries him up a snowy hill that the Mole is having a hard time climbing. There is kindness when they meet the Fox (voiced by Idris Elba), who at first looks like he will attack the Boy and the Mole, before running off. The Boy and the Mole then hear a cry, and find the Fox caught in a snare.
Similar to the book, the Fox says, “if I wasn’t caught in this snare, I’d kill you”, and the Mole responds: “If you stay in that snare, you will die.”
The Mole shrugs off his fear as he approaches the Fox to cut through the wire, and the Fox runs away. “One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.” This is a great reminder to us all, as we sometimes forget the power we yield in our reactions; how anger can easily be kindness, vengeance, so easily forgiveness.
Later, when the Mole falls into the river and is taken away by currents, the Fox saves him, and from then on, quietly joins them on their journey, always maintaining a distance.
The film also talks about fear, and how much more we could be if we were less afraid. The Mole says: “Most of the old moles I know wish they’d listened less to their fears and more to their dreams.” Later, when there is a storm, we see how the characters overcome their fear in their togetherness.
The Boy, the Mole and the Fox then meet the Horse (voiced by Gabriel Byrne), who has a sad look in his eyes. The Horse has fun as they play in the snow, galloping and making snow angels with the Boy and the Mole, while the Fox watches from a distance.
When the Boy cries, after falling off the Horse, he apologises. And the Horse says: “Tears fall for a reason. They are your strength, not weakness.”
There is gentleness throughout the movie, in the way the characters love each other. There is kindness, a sense of love, and belief or faith in each other. The story doesn’t preach about any of these. It doesn’t force a message across, but it makes us listen, pay attention, and take notes.
At one point, the Fox says he often feels like he has nothing interesting to say, and the Horse responds: “Being honest is always interesting.” Before this, when the Boy says the Fox never really speaks, the Horse says it’s still lovely he’s with them, which is a moment that stands out for those of us who feel inadequate within our friendships.
Another moment that stands out is when the Mole says how he wants to say he loves them all, but finds it a bit difficult, and so resorts to saying “I’m glad we are all here”, which he says later on as well.
The four characters find themselves in the middle of a storm, and the Horse comforts them by saying: “When the big things feel out of control, focus on what you love right under your nose.” The Fox later talks about the mind playing tricks on you, telling you are no good, and that it’s all hopeless. “You are loved and important, and you bring to this world things that no one else can,” the Fox adds.
The Horse reveals he can fly, and while up in the air, they spot the village they have been travelling towards, in an attempt to get the lost boy home. The Boy says his goodbyes and thanks them, saying “it looks like a home.” Everyone is sad.
“Always remember, you are enough, just as you are,” Fox says.
But then the Boy changes his mind, saying, “Home isn’t always a place, is it?” and joins the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. The film ends with them all seated together under the night sky. The Boy tells them that they know all about him, but still love him, and the Horse responds: “We love you all the more.”
The movie ends with a gentle reminder that we are here to love and be loved, and is a half-hour journey that will make your heart yearn for the kind of warmth the characters share. It may come across as a story meant for children, and is of great value to any child, but it has so much to offer to adults as well.