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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse review: This story of love and hope is half an hour of pure joy

Idris Elba and Tom Hollander voice characters in this beautiful Charlie Mackesy adaptation

Megan Graye
Saturday 24 December 2022 17:26 GMT
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse Trailer

Let’s be honest, it’s a little harder than usual to get into the festive spirit. Times are tough. Good news feels tricky to find. Getting warm and cosy costs a lot. Nurses, rail workers and Royal Mail staff are being forced to strike. Prices are (still) rising, and the need to pinch pennies for presents is more anxiety-inducing than ever. Enter the BBC’s adaptation of Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. This tale of love and hope is half an hour of unmitigated joy.

With Mackesy’s sketched animation, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was one for the kids. But bundled within the snowy scenes are messages for all ages. “You fell, but I’ve got you,” the Horse tells the Boy at one point. If you’re already familiar with the book, this understated adaptation brings the tale of unusual friendships beautifully to life.

Voiced by an all-star cast (including Idris Elba as the Fox and Tom Hollander as the Mole), Mackesy’s drawings dance around the screen with an endearing, Winnie-the-Pooh-like simplicity. Hollander is comical as the clumsy Mole, who obsesses over cake, befriending a “lost” Boy, voiced by Jude Coward Nicoll. Elba’s Fox is fierce at first, but then softens, his voice turning conscientious and gentle.

As we follow the unlikely group on their endeavour to find “home”, music scored by Isobel Waller-Bridge (the sister of Fleabag creator and star Phoebe) intensifies the journey. The Horse, voiced by a husky Gabriel Byrne, is the last to join the clan. And his Irish accent adds a soothing quality to proceedings. Together, the cast transform touching moments on the page into tear-jerking scenes on television.

But the animation is not overcooked. It manages to swerve clichés, despite being full of heartwarming messages that, in the wrong hands, could meander into mawkishness. “One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things,” says the Mole. It’s a story that celebrates courage, kindness and togetherness, proving the perfect antidote to flashy festive chaos.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a wake-up call for adults, and a world of wisdom for kids. At one point the Boy says to the Horse: “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” “Help,” replies the Horse. “Asking for help isn’t giving up, it’s refusing to give up,” he adds. This 30-minute story will leave you feeling hopeful and probably a little teary. Emerging from it unaffected is just about impossible.

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