“Saving” Ryan

Montreal born animator Ryan Larkin had a couple of brushes with Hollywood. Which is not surprising for someone once described as the Frank Zappa of animation. The first brush was for his 1970 Oscar-nominated film Walking. The second was for “Ryan” by Chris Landreth which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2005. It’s about Ryan’s descent from golden boy to homeless Montreal cokehead and alcoholic.

The film revolves around  a conversation the director Chris has with Ryan in a run down cafeteria. Chris wonders how an artist whose films are still shown in animation classes could have ended up a panhandler. He seeks Ryan’s redemption. Which leads to a well-intentioned confrontation by Chris about Ryan’s alcoholism and Ryan’s explosive reaction. A reaction that triggers in Chris memories about his mother and her troubles with drinking. Which leaves the viewer to ponder the meaning of Anaïs Nin’s observation that, “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

“Ryan” is a visceral and visual masterpiece of disembodied characters and their blotched bodies, minds and souls all brushed with splashes of colour set in a cafe overcast with many shades of grey.

Which could be life.

Or could be truth.

The swirling truth that links trauma, addiction, anguish, loneliness and other broken bits. The broken bits that righteousness sidesteps. That helplessness impersonates. That technique defrauds.

As a community organizer I’ve spent a lot of time bobbing and weaving around those bits. Only to discover that in the end, as at the end of this brilliant film, it’s the jagged edges that burst with life and the halo that expires. “Ryan” reminds us that salvation is always personal. That the journey to wholeness isn’t an ascent. And that redemption begins with a dignified bow to our broken bits.

The light is “shining deeper than the eyes can find” in “Ryan.” This is a fourteen minute film you won’t regret watching.


If we are afraid of our desert places then we become more afraid of the vulnerability outside ourselves — of the other. ~ Frances Westley

The first musical accompaniment to this post is Overcast Skies by CHIWAWA with words by Ryan Larkin. CHIWAWA is Laurie Gordon and Krassy Halatchev the friends with whom Ryan Larkin spent his last days.

The second musical accompaniment is Scars To Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara who just won a Grammy for Best New Performer.  (… see the light that’s shining / Deeper than the eyes can find it.)


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Ken Dryden’s Tips for Changing the Rules of Your Game

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The Role of Containers, Hacks and Metaphors in Social Change

Mental Fitness Touches a Nerve in Everyone

The World Needs More of You

A Bystanders’s Guide to Civility in a Time of Rage

First Leap, Bold; Second Leap, Wild

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