'Elephant' Review: A matriarch's wisdom navigates a connected family as tears and laughter play in viewers
The documentary follows the drudgery of a journey of the last elephants who still continue the epic migrations in search of water
Elephants, as most refer to them as gentle giants, depend on emotional bonds that are as longlasting and as strong as those of humans.
Disneynature's powerful documentary 'Elephant' is narrated by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and brings to surface the tenacity of the beasts as they are led by their matriarch, Gaia, through the Kalahari Desert. It follows the drudgery of a journey of the last elephants who still continue the epic migrations in search of water, as their ancestors did.
The herd of elephants, all related to one another, spend eight months walking 1,000 miles across the Kalahari to quench their thirst. A migration that has been made by many generations before them, it starts from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, a vast green oasis. As their liquid paradise dries, the herd must make their way through their desert stopping for food and water, enough to yield energy for their entire family.
The documentary showcases the quality of wisdom and responsibility that elephants hold as they use experience to navigate their future as a herd, as a family, never alone. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful animal, 'Elephant' will have you glued to the story of Shani, a 40-year-old elephant, mother to 1-year-old Jomo as she prepares to be next in line as the matriarch after her 50-year-old sister Gaia.
Using their "rumblings" to connect with each other, their journey, although a tough one, will have you cheering for the herd, as you learn about how they navigate a vast world of limited resources and unlimited dangers.
The filming is excellent, as cameras are placed organically to avoid forced interactions and reactions. We get an inside look at the undisturbed patterns of inherited wisdom as the herd follows their experienced leader. The elephants, some named, others not, are given a relatable human quality — from Jomo's playful nature and need to be a "man", down to simple farts and mud playing that will have you laughing at their innate need to be a loving family.
As Shani begins to understand the weight of her upcoming responsibility, we see Jomo make his way into adulthood.
The shots of the desert, be it aerial or crop, shows the path that has been trekked by multiple herds through countless generations through the vast connected desert. Not to mention while the story focuses on the herd, we get views of other animals such as the monkeys, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs and water buffaloes. The nature and nurture aspect of this overwhelmingly adorable documentary is worth the slight tears that are caused by the herd's dangerous situations.
Meghan makes for an interesting and inviting narrator who moves from subtle laughter to a seriousness during deeper-seeded situations of danger and experienced recovery of the herd. While the 85-minute long journey of the herd may seem dry, it is an important and introspective view to how these gentle giants tip their hats off to their ancestors as they head on a migration that depends on wisdom and wit.
'Elephant' is now available to stream on Disney Plus.