A boy on a bike, a hawk in flight and a Japanese girl with insight make up the lead trio in this charming coming-to-terms-with-loss story.
Paper Planes follows the flights of fancy of gawky 12-year-old Dylan (newcomer Ed Oxenbould) as he deals with the loss of his mother. Left to his own devices by his mourning father, Jack (A-lister Sam Worthington – Avatar, Clash of the Titans), Dylan discovers a talent for making paper aeroplanes.
The opening scene, in which a rapid industrial papermaking machine ejects a fluttering piece of paper, is typical of the visual nuances director Robert Connolly weaves into the story.
Dylan takes off on his bike through the Australian outback, cycling to school as Jennifer Lopez’s ‘There’s So Much Beauty in the World’ lifts the mood while a hawk circles overhead. Such scenes evoke a feeling of freedom that comes from the exuberant and curious youthful mind.
Dylan draws inspiration watching a wild hawk he befriends, throwing it strips of bacon to catch in flight. Kimi (another newcomer, Ena Imai) a charming young girl and winner of the Japanese Paper Plane Nationals, enters his life with wonderful nuggets of wisdom about looking at nature for how to solve problems.
They are, however, at odds with each other when it comes to their motivation for entering the World Junior Paper Plane Championships (which do actually exist). She wants to create something “beautiful and surprising” while he is determined to beat the competition’s young bully, who stops at nothing to win.
The film may lack some investment in portraying the father’s sense of losing his beautiful wife, killed in a car crash, but this is aimed at a young audience whose interests will centre on the younger characters.
Nonetheless Sam Worthington’s supporting role shows glimpses of emotion that do add some weight to the utter loneliness his character feels.
The focus is on Dylan as he is encouraged by his father, his schoolteacher and quirky ex-Air Force grandfather to question, imagine, and discover how to create the perfect championship-winning paper plane that is indeed, like the film, something beautiful and surprising.