Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Sketchbooks are commonplace amongst artists, but have you ever seen one come to life before? In Willy Hartland’s New York City Sketchbook, we see the candid and honest sketches move before our eyes as they tell a story within this iconic city that provides a backdrop for many films and TV shows; a city that we all know even if we haven’t set foot in it. From the beginning I know this was going to be an interesting watch!
It’s very easy for filmmakers to glamorise big cities such as New York, London, Paris, etc so it was refreshing to see something from the eyes of an regular spectator. There’s no rose tinted glasses here, just regular ones with the correct prescription. And I have a lot of respect for that. Some moments made me laugh, some made me smile, and others made me feel sad. Sometimes I felt truly voyeuristic and that I really shouldn’t be looking at that. Because of this it’s a truly honest look at life inside New York City. It’s not entirely bleak, it’s not entirely beautiful, it’s a combination of many things. It’s life in all its beauty and ugliness. It’s simultaneously happy and sad. It’s simultaneously sexy and unsexy. Kudos to Willy for making that work, because it’s challenging to say the least.
Despite the lack of dialogue and audio, it’s very easy to see what’s going on and what characters are thinking. It becomes almost entirely visual meaning you look through it exactly as you would a scrapbook, which was a really nice touch. Having said that, the music choices were excellent and really set the scene. A highlight for me was a scene on the subway because as someone who works in London and often uses the underground, I’ve seen similar things like this unfold during my journey.
The subjects within New York City Sketchbook are all different shapes, sizes, personalities,and all co-exist within this big, beautiful and sometimes scary city. It was interesting to see these different characters as I knew nothing about them other than how they were immortalised in a sketch, but I felt like I was getting a glimpse into their personal lives and desires, even just for a moment. I really loved Willy’s unique visual and animation style too as it’s so different from anything else, and no one else could accurately replicate it. It’s his own, personal work with a distinct art style that is captivating. He should be proud of what he brought to life for audiences.
If you would like to follow Willy and his work, you can find him over on his website. He’s worked with an impressive list of clients and has recently won festival awards, so he’s one to watch!