Once in a while, a film comes along that defies simple explanation. The story proves complex, the characters unexpectedly nuanced, and the entire narrative experience is beyond anything you expect. Hugo is just such a movie, a story that succeeds as a children’s fable in the spirit of childhood fantasies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and City of Ember, and simultaneously offers a surprisingly deep and profound exploration of love, family and what it means to be human.
Most movies seem to have one or two memorable characters and a cast of supporting roles that are all one-dimensional, without nuance and quickly forgettable. Hugo defies this dismal convention with the experienced directorial touch of Martin Scorsese, and every character in the film is interesting, believable and a welcome addition to the story, from the handicapped Station Inspector (dryly and wittily played by Sacha Baron Cohen to the bakery owner Madame Emilie (an impossibly sweet Frances de la Tour), whose budding romance with Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths) is neatly paralleled by both the growing relationship between Hugo and Isabelle and with Madame’s dog and, eventually, Monsieur’s dog.