“Gigi & Nate” is a heartwarming tale of a boy who is given a capuchin monkey as a service animal after an accident causes him to become quadriplegic. An animal rights group threatens to take away Gigi, the monkey, the only thing that gives Nate a sense of what life was like before the accident.
“I’m excited for them to see a genuinely emotional, entertaining, almost old-fashioned Billy Wilder kind of movie, which allows you to enter a beautiful domestic world and have a great ride, in terms of your own personal enjoyment of watching the relationships that these great actors did,” Director Nick Hamm said in an interview with MovieWeb.
And it’s safe to say that this film has an amazing cast, making everyone real and relatable; starting with the main character, Nate. He ran track in high school, is friendly to everyone around him, and is only weeks away from going to the college of his dreams. This immediately hooks you into his story and makes you care for him as a person. It’s heart-shattering watching all of this taken away from him in a flash, which is the theme of this movie.
Part of what makes this movie one to remember is the use of a capuchin monkey as a service animal, which sets the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. Hamm takes time to introduce and expand on the relationship Gigi has with Nate. Gigi is a capuchin monkey who is rescued from a rundown sideshow carnival right at the beginning of the film. She starts off timid but eventually comes around to Nate.
Cut in between these serious breakdowns of their lives are scenes of this cute monkey being absolutely adorable! One such scene is where the movie takes time to show a montage of Gigi assisting Nate, she helps with his physical therapy, learns to climb behind his neck to help relax his muscles, and even learns to flip the pages of his book! It really makes you fall in love with the relationship between these two.
Nate’s disability is interwoven in the film, even being a key point that actor Charlie Rowe made sure he nailed, “Absolutely. You don’t see quadriplegics on camera a lot. I wanted to do that community justice,” Rowe said in an interview with Pop Culturalist.
This drives several key character moments between him and his sister which breaks down their relationship. Both characters finally get a chance to air their frustration and it was tense to watch, his sister reveals she didn’t hate him, but she had felt like she could never move on because she never felt she did enough. Nate in turn tells her she is the reason that he kept going.
Nate helps ease his sister’s fears of moving on by telling her that he is going to be alright. This serves to once again humanize both parties, and make the audience care about not just Nate, but his sister as well, who up to this point seemed very cold to him.
The film never shies away from showing how the rest of his family reacts, whether it’s positively like his grandmother and mother or indifferent like his younger sister, both of which are relevant and make the family still feel like actual people and not just bystanders in Nate’s story. By making sure that everyone is involved with the story, it really ties the entire family together. This focus helps to remind the audience that his family was also important to and always contributing to the story overall.
As I mentioned, this film deals with the discussion of loss. Early on, Nate’s parents have a heated argument over the give-and-take of their lives, with Nate’s mother being the one to take the biggest workload in the time that followed Nate’s diagnosis. Nate’s mom’s feelings following this argument hit close to home as a student, life becomes a balancing act, where you have to weigh in on what you want versus what you have to do and it helped to connect me with the story. Nate’s family is forced to adapt due to his disability and this causes them to have to make certain sacrifices. They leave their comfortable cabin by the lake in rural North Carolina and move to urban Tennessee to better accommodate Nate.
Not exactly an action filled MCU blockbuster, this hour and 45-minute movie never leaves a dull moment. Although it does slow down, there is a scene at the capital hearing where the dialogue gets a bit heavy-handed and makes her out to be the villain of the story.
As noted by Julian Roman of MovieWeb, “A poorly written main antagonist derails the narrative with heartless and overblown machinations,” which perfectly explains the film’s rushed villain who is ultimately unneeded. However, the focus is quickly returned to the relationship between Nate and his beloved support animal at the story’s core.
I really enjoy movies like this, especially in an industry where they’re becoming increasingly rare. This film is great for animal lovers, but also for those who want a nice movie to watch with their family. Large explosions and quips galore are traded for deep character moments not just from Nate but his whole family, and heartwarming moments between the duo that will surely leave the viewer teary-eyed.
“Gigi & Nate” had its theatrical release on September 2nd, 2022, and hits all the marks for a feel-good tale, filled with the comedy, drama, and adorable-ness that is needed to propel its story forward.
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