There may be rest now – Amin is an accomplished academic, living with his partner Kasper in Copenhagen, settled with a cat and looking at houses – but director Jonas Poher Rasmussen knows that there is more under the surface of this refugee’s life. With Amin’s (not his real name) cooperation and unfolding honesty, they decide to break into the nesting doll of his life between Afghanistan, Russia, and Denmark. 

Flee unfolds in ever-flowing animation, lines morphing into new figures and places seamlessly, capturing the restlessness and transience of the many lives Amin was forced to lead and leave along the way. These stories change continually – Amin revises his conversation, going back to add more details and eventually confirm that, contrary to first reports, his family are not all dead. Far from breaking confidence in the narrator, these edits boost the veracity of his desperate, dangerous flight – a journey over land, sea, and sky employing highly illegal methods. But what morality, let alone legality, is there in separating a family and throwing a closeted gay man into increasingly precarious living situations? The trust Rasmussen earns in these revisions lets viewers into the madness and amorality governing the impersonal international approach towards large-scale, yet wholly individual and unique, human suffering. 

Flee’s high-profile producers (Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) no doubt helped the film onto the festival circuit, but its multi-million sale at Sundance is all to the credit of its skilful artistry and personal, yet never mawkish, storytelling. The animation may create a certain distance in storytelling, but it allows for a clearer-eyed look at the inhuman hurdles Amin still faces. If he did not, why would the story be so lovingly drawn? 

Haunting, understated, and beautifully rendered, Flee moves through multiple realities and fictions to tell one man’s ongoing saga of survival. 

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

DIRECTOR: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

WRITERS: Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin

SYNOPSIS: Amin’s life as a gay Afganistani refugee, and his family’s scattered flight through Europe, is told through animation.