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The Wrong Side of the Rainbow

What is what you expect about a movie with unicorns? Fantasy, adventure, magic? Yes, those are the main ingredients of films that feature unicorns (like Harry Potter, or Legend), but what about movies where the unicorn is the main protagonist? In my quest to look for unicorn-centered movies, I discovered a secret fourth ingredient, like the Chemical X on the Powerpuff Girls.

And that ingredient... is a strange feeling of melancholy.

I hereby present you: The Trilogy of Melancholic Unicorn Movies. One is an anime, another is live action, and the last one (HAH) is animated in the West (...kind of).

Far from the bright, happy and optimistic outlook that modern unicorns tout, these movies with unicorn protagonists are oddly gloomy, with situations that aren't always easily solved with a wave of a magic horn and stories that don't always have grandiose, fulfilling, Disney-grade happy endings. If a creature such as an unicorn, who's magical and beyond the domestic and the mortal, doesn't always have the solutions to their problems, how does it face them, and what does that say about our human, mortal problems?

I will proceed now to summarize the story of each movie and add my thoughts inside a spoiler for those who want to watch the films beforehand.

The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, 1981

Unico is the story of a baby unicorn (more like an unicorn with the head of a baby) with the magic power to make people happy. However, the Gods are upset at this, for they believe only they can decide whether people deserve happiness or not; but they cannot bring themselves to kill such a pure and innocent creature. Instead, they decide to summon the West Wind to take him away somewhere where he will be alone and forgotten for the rest of eternity. But the West Wind has other plans...

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First of all, and with all respect to Osamu Tezuka, I do not like Unico's "default" design. He looks like an unicorn the same way Flounder looks like an actual fish. It's a human baby head on four legs. Of course, I do enjoy his super-powered form better, the one he gets when it's Time To Be Badass - mostly because he gets to look like an actual horse :P

My favourite part of this movie is the first one, with Beezel, the Demon of Loneliness. Taking pity on him, the West Wind drops Unico off at the Island of Loneliness, a place where he will be safe from the gods, as long as he doesn't use his powers. Which should be easy, since as the name says, there's nobody on the island for him to use his powers on.

However, there is somebody in the Island of Loneliness - Beezel, the demon of solitude. I do love his design a lot, I was told he looks like something I would draw. As a demon, he doesn't care for nice things - refuses to be friends with Unico at first, cheats him out of his magic horn, plays rough with him and eventually he drives him off onto the sea to be drowned.

His interactions with Unico are very engaging - someone cartoonishly bullyish, literally unable to do good, interacting with someone as cartoonishly nice and kind as Unico. The only things that can leverage these two opposites are Beezel's demon logic that makes him force himself to keep promises (he swore he would get Unico's horn back by the end of the day, even if that means swimming across the sea at the risk of drowning himself as well) and that being the Devil of Solitude doesn't exempt him from feeling lonely. It's very interesting to see him struggle with his new feelings towards Unico, and reasoning with himself trying to find an excuse that will allow him to save Unico without forfeiting his demon nature.

Unico grants Beezel his very own horn as a gesture of friendship, love, appreciation for being saved, and all the nice feelings devils find so yucky. This makes Beezel say something nice to Unico for the first time ("thank you") and bounce all around in happiness, turning his desolate grey rock of an island into a flowery lush paradise.

Of course, making a demon of loneliness happy is such a feat that immediately gives off Unico's location, and the gods send the Night Wind to take him to the Hill of Oblivion. The West Wind appears before her, and takes Unico first, to hide him one more time. And thus, the Demon of Solitude is lonely again...

Next thing he knows, Unico finds himself in a meadow, and finds a cat named Katy floating along the river inside a basket, singing a happy ditty. Unico ends up inside the basket, and asking around, accidentally hurts Katy's feelings by implying she was abandoned, which sadly, is true. He comforts her, and this is how they become friends.

Katy says she's looking for a witch so she can turn her into a human and teach her how to be a witch as well. That's her greatest wish. Also, she cries in soft "mius" and likes to hunt cockroaches. Her energetic, excitable and plucky nature contrasts with Unico, which looks a bit dogged (HAH). He's like that friend who plays along with your wacky plans but isn't all sure this was a good idea all along. It's a good contrast with his more naïve attitude towards Beezel.

Eventually, they find a house in the middle of the forest, and Katy immediately assumes it's a witch's house. It is home to an old lady whose age is making things harder for her everyday - she trips on the ledge that makes the entrance of her house, struggles to see... Katy insists she's a witch, although Unico thinks she's just a regular old woman.

Unico grants Katy's wish of becoming a human, so she can talk to the old woman. Of course, she belives this was the witch's deed. Unico plays along and then suggests her to help her around the household as a way to repay her, and so she does. The "witch" is confused by the sudden appearance of a young lady in her house, but she appreciates the extra help.

However, Katy soon grows complacent and drops the household chores. Unico is upset at this, seeing the old woman trip once again, and confesses to Katy it was his magic and not the witch's. She doesn't believe him, and transforms her back into a cat. He tells her he did this because his magic no longer works if he doesn't like the person anymore, and he doesn't like how she grew irresponsible and lazy.

Back as a cat, Katy visits the lady's house once again. She sees the happiness on her face when she sees her pet cat again, her loneliness when she leaves to find a "real" witch, and how she struggles to do tasks due to her age. Remorseful, Katy tries to help her with her chores, but her deeds are mistaken by playing, and she can't accomplish them as well as a cat. One day, the old woman falls into the river, and without thinking, Katy leaps into the water to try to save her. Unico's magic turns her back into a human so she's able to rescue her. And this is how Katy finds not what she wants, but what she needs: a family.

Overall, the second part reads a lot like a fairy tale, and the lushness of the environment (in contrast to the dull and grey landscape of Beezel's island) makes this an enjoyable watch.

The third part is my least favourite. It literally introduces a random villain out of nowhere, a guy who looks and sounds like Edward Cullen at his worst (aka stilted and bored as hell), Katy falls in love with him, he abducts her with an invitation to his castle and some berries with questionable powers (hiccups and hypnosis, it gets uncomfortable). Of course the guy is evil and corrupts the forest and its inhabitants and becomes a giant vampire-demon of death and shit.

I do not like this part. It takes all the philosophical story / fairytale aspect of the previous two parts and instead becomes a very hokey rescue story, complete with a "mwahahahaha" kind of villain. The only good parts of this third act are Unico fighting him at the end and Beezel coming back.

And speaking of the good parts, OH MY GOD UNICO GOES METAL HERE. If you're a fan of the Powerpuff Girls, or overall of cute characters ABSOLUTELY BEATING THE CRAP OUT of gargantuan monsters, this is a MUST WATCH for you. And of course, Unico's super form comes back for the final battle. We definitely need more movies that have unicorns piercing baddies all the way thorough with their horn. As I said, this makes the least sense theme-wise, but I'd say that fight scene was almost worth the sudden shift of tone. Almost. I bet there must be a better way to plug it in.

Overall, I find Unico's main dilemma... interesting. The power of an individual to make people around them happy, versus the chaos of reality. The endless cycle of meeting people, welcoming them into our lives, and eventually losing them due to circumstances not in our control, much how the West Wind takes Unico away everytime he manages to change somebody's life for the better. The unseen changes we make in other people's lives, that are significant, even if we don't know them, even if we forget them, even if they forget us. How our lives interconnect and separate constantly, yet our brief encounters are not meaningless. Unico is a tale of love and loss, and how the two are as intermingled as life and death are.

Nico the Unicorn, 1998

Nico the Unicorn is the story of a boy named Billy, who adopts a pony who turns out to be an unicorn, and has to try to hide him from the local bullies and nosy reporters who want the latest big news.

It's your typical 90's live-action animal film, but before I delve deep into this one I want to give a little forewarning to the sensitive souls out there: Billy has a physical disability, and this is treated as well as you expect from a 90's movie. The bully characters use very mean words against him, and overall, poor Billy barely gets a break through the film. Also, the love interest of Billy's mom has... some very questionable behavior sometimes, and there's animals suffering. I think I got all of that out of the way, so let's go.

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I have a personal story with this film. I watched some snippets of it as a kid, and didn't remember its name at all. I spent years looking for "movies about unicorns" with no result. It was all Legend and Harry Potter and Frienship is Magic. Until some asking around on Reddit and some cleverer search-fu leaded me back to this film.

Billy and his mom have moved away to a new town and a new home in need of repair. Billy has a limp, which limits his walking speed and endurance and makes his sports performance... not quite as impressive for the other kids, who mock him in response when he joins them for a baseball game.

Back home, while helping mom with house repair, Billy finds a book about unicorns. The next day, after an uncomfortable encounter with the bullies while playing pinball, Billy finds a mysterious freak show showcasing "Ben's Special Critturs". You know, one of those that appear out of nowhere. Inside, he finds an "unicorn" - actually a pony with a fake horn on her. He immediately feels an affinity for her, and enters her enclosure to feed her some hay - you know, typical kid behavior.

After getting scolded by the freakshow owner, he hears a conversation about a butcher who wants to buy the pony for slaughter - and he immediately offers the freakshow owner double (20 dollars) to save her from the knife. He gives him 10 dollars (all his current pocket money) in advance, and promises to come back with the rest of it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Billy's mom gets a romantic sideplot with a police officer who... has very questionable behavior. He flirts with her at work (she's waitress at a coffeeshop) and asks her for a date. I bet the moviemakers intended to make her look shy, flattered or unsure, but she looks uncomfortable instead. Later on, he shows up at her house, umprompted, asking her for a date they didn't agree on. But because this is the Obligatory Romantic Plot for Moms Watching the Film, everything goes smooth as butter. Helps that the policeman is actually a genuinely good man, if only creepily written.

After arguing with his mom after telling her he bought a pony for 20 dollars, there's two important plot points dropped here: that they can't actually afford to raise her, and that Billy is unable to ride a horse because of his leg: if he has one bad fall, he would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. So riding animals or bikes is a big no-no.

This follows with a very uncomfortable scene of the freakshow owner, now drunk, harrassing and beating up the pony with a stick. It fades to black before any bodily harm is directly shown, but you can feel the tension and hear the poor animal neighing. Next day, Billy freaks out when he sees the pony laying on the floor, believing her dead. He even accusses her soon-to-be past owner of killing her, but fortunately, she wakes up, and the transaction is finished.

What follows is a montage of Billy washing the pony (now without her fake horn). He tends to her wounds as well, and is overall very invested in her care. You get a feeling of sweetness and relief from this scene, as if the kid has finally found one good thing in his new life. He gets a visit from a girl, Karol who tends to hang around with bullies, but actually likes him. It's an awkward first meeting, with her being sorry for his "bad leg" and him saying it's not the end of the world. She does know of how he got the pony and she thinks he's brave for rescuing her.

Mom comes back from buying food for the pony, and tells Billy they can't afford to feed her for longer than a week, so then the pony will have to go. He gets upset and snaps at his mom, showing off some of his pent up resentment for being "in the middle of nowhere, with nothing" after his dad passed away. He really wants to keep the pony and is willing to work for it, but apparently the town they live in don't offer any better opportunities for both him and his mom.

They get a surprise visit from the flirty policeman. His sole purpose here is to take mom out of the picture (but like, an actual date, not murdering her), check on the pony and suggesting Billy the possibility that she's pregnant (THE PONY, NOT THE MOM).

With Billy sleeping alone at home tonight, he gets woken up by the distressed neighing of his new pet. The reason for this is a cougar coming to her stable, trying to break in. It runs away when seeing human activity (Billy coming in to check on the pony). He calms her down and decides to go to sleep with her, retrieving plenty of blankets from home to bring them to the stable. This is another sweet, heartwarming moment (oh to be able to cuddle with a horse).

You know, traditionally, the enemy of the unicorn has been the lion - and using a mountain lion for an American setting is a very clever substitute. Points for that.

Next morning, he realizes his pony is not getting up, and believes this is because she's about to give birth. He calls Karol because she is the only person he can trust, and refuses to get any adult for help because he feels like "this is something they have to do by themselves". The plot here gets as strained as ricotta in a cheesecloth.

Two kids trying to assist a birthing pony with nothing but a book from the school library. Awkward fun ensues: "You want me to reach inside the pony?!?!?"

I don't know if horses give birth laying sideways, or if this is proper birthing horse assistance (I'm gonna err on the cautious side and say no), but luckily moviemaking taste doesn't show us the actual nitty gritty of the birth. Instead, cuts away to some pretty music and visuals and when we're back to Billy and his friend and his pony, we see the foal happily nursing. They notice the baby has a hard bump on his forehead. Also, nothing like helping a horse birth to make stronger bonds, right.

Of course, mom isn't happy at all now they have an additional mouth to feed. The foal grows up incredibly fast, soon being as big as his mom, and so does his bump, becoming the unicorn horn we all know and love. Billy comes up with a name for him at school, playing with the word "unicorn". This is one of the few scenes I actually watched as a kid, but then I forgot. When I saw that scene of the name "Nico" with a doodle of an unicorn and that smiley face inside the O, memories came back instantly.

However, even with an actual unicorn in the story, things aren't all immediately happily ever after. The cougar is back, and this time, neither Billy or his mom are at home to protect them. The animals grow nervous, and Billy gets the feeling something bad is about to happen. He feigns illness to get out of class and gets back home with the help of Karol and her bike.

The distressed animals aren't slouching either - mother pony manages to open the stable door and close it, keeping Nico inside, to fight the cougar. This scene features the fakest bloodstains ever, the most awkward cuts and the most distressing neighing noises. Not as upsetting as the scene with the drunk freakshow owner thanks to the hokey cinematography, but still not a pretty watch, and not a happy aftermath.

Billy eventually finds his pony dead in the woods. He tells his mom the news when they get back home. She is visibly upset even if she didn't like the idea of raising a pony, comforts her child, and helps him bury her and make a little burial site with stones.

Nico grows up again, surpassing his mother's pony size and becoming a full fledged horse. Now I can talk about his appearance. He's your standard white horse with a spiral horn, but one detail I like is that the movie focuses a lot on his horizontal pupils - all horses have that, but it's often not shown, focusing on "rounder" pupils, because horizontal is considered strange and not cute. However, I like that Nico's horizontal pupils are shown as a way to denote that he is no ordinary horse - but not in a weird and scary way, but in a magical, fantastical one. It's the horse equivalent of giving an anime protagonist brighter and more detailed hair in comparison to their backgrounders.

Soon, Nico starts manifesting magic - plants grow where he walks, turns the rather empty and dry land of the backyward into a flowery paradise, grows a fountain after scratching a rock, and is able to understand Billy's words. Karol comes for a visit, and upon seeing all this beauty and magic, suggests Billy he could be rich and famous with this - he could charge admission to let people see Nico. However, Billy strongly disagrees with the idea - he doesn't want people bothering Nico, or for him to be taken to a lab to be dissected.

Billy insists to hide the fact he has an unicorn living on his yard from others that are not his mother or friend - asking them not to tell others and hiding his horn with a funny hat. However, while we can excuse Karol's insensitivity approaching sensible topics with Billy because she's a kid who doesn't know better... she really has no excuse getting riled up by her bully friends and trying to convince them he owns a real unicorn. I know, she tries to fix it, and her intention was to defend Billy who was getting a "crazy" reputation but girl. All you had to do is not tell them. Keep your mouth shut. 👁🗢👁

The bullies decide to spread the rumor Billy's horse is an unicorn through the local newspaper. They bet a hundred thousand dollars with a rather ruthless news reporter if they manage to take photographic evidence of the unicorn. Karol realizes she really messed up and goes back to Billy's house to warn him of the bullies. But it's too late.

Yup, this is another uncomfortable scene. The bullies intensify their bullying, push Billy off, and break into their house against his consent to try to find Nico. The unicorn defends his owner, almost killing one of the bullies before being told off by Billy; but by doing so, he reveals himself, giving them plenty of time to take pictures of him.

And here comes the climax: now that Nico is at risk of being exposed to everybody in town and on the news, Billy decides Nico needs to be free, hidden somewhere far from people and starts a grueling journey with him across the mountains. Trailing behind him, the ruthless news reporter and his people, the bullies and the freakshow owner, back and looking for a real attraction; versus Karol, Billy's mom and her new policeman boyfriend (and the police force) trying to stop them from finding him and Nico.

And this is the part where Billy does what he was forbidden from doing: riding Nico, as a way to advance faster. He even removes his leg brace so he can get up on him. It's a long, treacherous and dangerous journey. We get a nice scene of Billy's mom going baller against the freakshow owner-turned-poacher, and even the cougar is back for another animal fight scene. This time, Nico successfully fends it off to protect Billy.

And the final big scene, that was the only one I remembered as a kid, the kernel of memory that was lodged in my memory all these years: Nico and Billy jumping across a huge cliff to escape their pursuiters, a powerful Horse Jump to Safety, almost as if he flew (that kind of move is popular among horse protagonists, huh).

Safe from the evils of the human world and literally on the other side, Nico and Billy reach a cave with ancient unicorn paintings on them, like in Altamira. An entrance opens, glowing bright, revealing a hidden paradise, a secret world for Nico to live happy and free. Also, the magic of that place or Nico's magic make Billy able to walk and run without the complications given from his limp. I know some of you will feel strongly about that kind of stuff.


I'm not going to lie, I have a soft spot for this movie despite how clunky the plot gets sometimes, with Billy happening to know what to do (not call anybody, run from school because he feels his animals are in danger) and Karol making things worse for the sake of plot. As I said, I only remembered one or two scenes from it when I was a kid, and looked everywhere to find this film again. I always love something that keeps me guessing, I feel it makes me more involved than a piece of media that presents everything to me, is easily available, and wants my money bad.

While Nico had a very idealistic and fantastic happy ending, it didn't shy away from bad things I don't think any modern movie for kids would be comfortable showing. There's animal abuse, there's animal death, there's hurtful bullying. "People do things like that, they don't really have a reason". Bad things happen just because, and again, there's no real reason for it.

Overall, Billy reacts pretty strongly to Karol's implications that he's worse off because of his leg or his economical situation. I get him. He doesn't want to be pitied, or do things he doesn't think are okay, even if he'd be better off doing them (not buying a pony he can't afford to raise, turn Nico into an attraction, not riding Nico). He seems to relate a lot to Nico because they're both seen as "freaks" - and people are not kind to freaks. Mocked, bullied, exploited, never seen as a person or even a proper living being. All Billy and Nico want is to live in peace.

It's not an easy world for magic to thrive, both by its inherent chaos and because of the inherent possibility of doing evil people have. But those factors don't mean magic (as in, kindness, beauty, art, all things that are good) shouldn't be allowed to exist, for it allows us to go through life, for it makes life worth living.

The Last Unicorn, 1982

The Last Unicorn (and I'm saving the best for last (HAH), so if you haven't watched this one do it so NOW NOW NOW!!!) is a film about an unicorn who realizes she is the last one of her kind, and decides to go on a quest to find out what happened to the rest of the unicorns.

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I too have a story with this film. I've been putting off watching it, and the time I did was one where I thought I would die. It all ended well, it was all a stupid scare, but a pretty traumatizing one nevertheless. Maybe that's why it's a comfort film for me. I just like to get lost in the beauty and the narrative of it, get immersed in the music... I feel lulled like this movie like a kid when listening to a fairytale. A kid doesn't think of the messages or motifs, just gets carried by it, and so do I. But I will try to analyze, at least, to make my thoughts clearer.

I love one of the first things in the story, the description of the forest the unicorn lives in through two hunters looking for game in it: a forest in which an unicorn inhabits is in eternal spring, and animals living within are protected by the unicorn's magic, so going hunting there is fruitless.

The unicorn hears from the hunters, before leaving, that she is the only unicorn left in the world. Cue the movie's theme by America. It always get a tear out of me.

Okay, I usually don't care about songs in movies but let's focus on this one for a moment, okay? It's a song about the eternal nature of unicorns - even if she is the last one of her kind, she will be there until the very end of the world. There has not been, and will never be, a time without unicorns. If this is a trio of melancholic unicorn movies, this one is the jewel of the crown, and, as you might have imagined by now, I reserved the best one for the last. (HAH) The tapestry intro really sells it, too. Overall, this movie is incredibly gorgeous, combining masterfully what looks natural and what only belongs to art, and the colour palettes are sublime.

As for the unicorn's design itself, it truly looks gorgeous. Lady Amalthea, as she will be named later in the film, looks as majestic and delicate as you can expect from an unicorn. She's lion-tailed, narrow-snouted, and even more doe-eyed than does, but without falling into saccharine sweetness. She looks horsely with a stocky body and spindly legs, but still, otherwordly. Pale white, with pale blue shines, and a pink star marking right where her horn starts, she looks legendary.

The next morning, the unicorn comes across a butterfly. Knowing butterflies travel far, she tries to get information from him over the rest of her kind. Here, it is established that butterflies can only speak in words they have heard from others. This one, a rather cultured one, only speaks in poems, song snippets and excerpts from books. He screws around for a little while until he manages to describe the unicorn, as a dictionary description. Then he continues, and drops some very interesting information: apparently the rest of the unicorns have been chased by a fierce and mysterious creature, the Red Bull.

At night, the unicorn ponders whether she should abandon her forest, her home, to search for the rest of the unicorns. Hurried by the thought they might be in danger and needing help, she abandons her forest, looking back to see all her animal friends. They have worried expressions: what will be of her? Of the forest? Of themselves, now that the unicorn will be gone? She promises to come back as soon as she can, and so begins her quest.

It is a long, long journey, where we see the unicorn marching through as the seasons pass, walking more wearingly as winter approaches.

At one point, she comes across a farmer. On another note, I really like how the human characters are made in this movie - they look very ground to earth without looking realistic. The farmer cannot see the unicorn's horn - he believes she's just a mere white mare, and tries to tie her up for his farm. She escapes, more offended than scared, that she's been perceived as a simple horse. This is the first of several quirky point of views of the unicorn - I call them "quirky" to give them a word, but what they are trying to define is that, as a fantastical, immortal being, the unicorn sees things differently from other mortal beings.

The unicorn realizes that she is now in the mortal, human world - one that can be dangerous, one she has no control over, one where she isn't even seen as what she truly is. The landscape is still gorgeous, but it looks more "natural" than the unicorn's forest, which was subtly otherwordly, like she is.

Next night, she gets seized while she's sleeping by a caravan for "Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival". Mommy Fortuna herself is a witch, and she has two lackeys - her son, a hunchbacked, one-eyed brute; and a wizard, called Schmendrick - lanky, bare-faced, big-nosed and dorky. Mommy Fortuna wants the unicorn for her carnival, but first, she asks her lackeys what they see. Schmendrick is the only one who can see the unicorn for what she truly is, but tries to lie to her, unsuccessfully. She puts a spell on the unicorn to keep her asleep and adds a fake horn onto her, then orders her lackeys to haul her to one of the wagons.

The unicorn wakes up to find herself as one of the attractions of Mommy Fortuna's carnival, which is more of the medieval equivalent of a freakshow, where they show the local peasants all sorts of fantastical creatures, such as dragons, manticores and demons.

However, prompted by Schmendrick who approaches her cage, the unicorn realizes that the other attractions are actually sad, caged, regular animals - it's all spells, illusions for those who want to really see a fierce manticore where an old toothless lion is. Only those who truly believe in legends can see them - the rest need to be fooled with magic tricks. It's the inverse case for the unicorn - she has a fake horn so even those who don't believe in unicorns can see one.

Frightened, the unicorn realizes there is another "true" legend among the freaks - a harpy, with ears and three hairy breasts. She was captured, and is stewing in her own rage, plotting revenge against Mommy Fortuna.

At night, Mommy Fortuna and her son approach the Harpy's cage. He implores her to get rid of the harpy, for she will eventually kill them. However, Mommy is very proud of the fact she managed to capture her and keep her captive for so long, and refuses to set her free. Later, the witch has a brief conversation with the unicorn, on how once the harpy is free, she will kill Mommy Fortuna. She doesn't seem concerned about that, for she believes that she will live in the memory on the harpy, as the one who caught her. So in a way, she has secured her own immortality by living rent-free in the head of a pissed-off legendary bird. It's like when you tried to catch Zapdos as a kid, but the opposite way.

Mommy Fortuna also refuses to free the unicorn as well, arguing that she is safer there with her than at the mercy of the Red Bull, mentioning along the way he belongs to King Haggard, giving the unicorn further clues about the whereabouts of the rest of her kind.

Later that night, Schmendrick appears, willing to free the unicorn. Goofy clown music ensues as he tries to free her with the help of his magic. He insists he's a real wizard, as "real" as the unicorn and the harpy, but his magic doesn't work ("this is a super spell"): he momentarily brings the unicorn back to her forest, burns his hands on the bars and shrinks the cage with the unicorn inside. The unicorn tells him to keep trying, for she has seen true magic in him even if the spells were wrong, but Schhmendrick gives up and proceeds to just open the cage with keys like a peasant.

Just as she's set free, Mommy Fortuna's son appears and discovers them. Schmendrick fights him off as she frees the rest of Mommy Fortuna's attractions with her own magic (a touch of her horn on the locks). As she approaches the harpy, the last one left to be free, Schmendrick begs her not to do it, for she will kill her. But she can't help it... they are, in a way, sisters, after all. The harpy rises into the sky, divebombing into the unicorn - but she's not her prey - Mommy Fortuna is. She walks into the scene, embracing her destiny at the claws of the harpy. Schmendrick and the unicorn witness the gruesome scene, and the unicorn shows him the way out - turn your back, walk, don't run - never run from anything immortal, for it catches their attention.

Now with Schhmendrick by her side, she tells him her objective: to find the rest of her kind, wherever the Red Bull, at the command of King Haggard, took them. Schmendrick begs the unicorn to take him with her: "for luck, for laughs, for the unknown". She allows him to do so, although wonders if he's looking for a proper "reward" for freeing her - she can't grant him his wish of becoming a "proper" magician, but doesn't fret too much about it. This is her second "immortal quirk", and her third one is that she cannot feel regret. More on that later. Schmendrick can tell the unicorn where King Haggard's kingdom is, and as they walk towards there, he tells her about the Red Bull too, which is still shrouded in mystery.

As they approach Haggard's kingdom, they get ambushed by bandits. The unicorn manages to run away, but Schmendrick gets discovered from his hiding spot, and taken away where they set camp. There, they meet the leader of the bandits, Captain Colley and his lover: Molly Grue. He turns out to be quite friendly, and invites Schmendrick to sit by the campfire and, you're reading this right, "have a taco".

Turns out this gang of bandits is trying to emulate Robin Hood, but they're jaded by circumstances of real life. Captain Colley doesn't want to hear about Robin Hood - he insists he's a myth, and that they are the real thing. The unicorn finds them, and aids Schmendrick with magic so the bandits can see the true Robin Hood and his Merry Men, marching right in front of their eyes. They are like ghosts, unable to be touched or interacted with, but their presence is enough to inspire the bandits, who follow behind them.

Maybe this is about how people need myths and fiction, in a way - how we need stories to inspire us and help us go through our regular routines. There is this bit by Terry Pratchett, loosely paraphrasing, about needing to believe in "small lies" (Santa, the Tooth Fairy, fairytales, myths) first so we can believe the "big ones" (justice, kindness, honor, morality) - for they do not exist in the natural world ("If you were able to crush the universe and reduce it to its essentials, would you be able to find one single atom of justice?") unless we make them happen. I think this scene is in the same line as that.

Upset at Schmendrick, Captain Colley ties him to... uh, a questionably shaped tree. Which is about to become more questionable once Schmendrick tries to free himself with his magic. FART NOISE. If you know this scene, you know what I'm trying to talk about. If you decided to peek at this review without watching the film, go look up "the last unicorn tree scene" on Youtube. Do it so at your own risk.

However, this event makes Schhmendrick realize that he has true magic within him, something he's very excited about. He reunites with the unicorn and are about to exit the forest when they come across Molly Grue. This is the first time she sees the unicorn and... she doesn't take it well, to say the least. Her amazement is mixed with bitter tears: "Where were you?! Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago!? How dare you come to me now, now that I'm... this?!".

If you know the thing with unicorns and virgins, you know what's happening here. Molly Grue is old and jaded - life has taken a toll on her, and she is no longer the pure, innocent person you'd expect associated with an unicorn. Yet, despite all of that, she immediately recognizes the legendary being for what she is - she still believed in them, in myths and legends and magic, despite what life has thrown at her. After her lashing out, and crying it out, she forgives the unicorn for showing up so late to her life.

Molly Grue joins their quest, and guides them towards King Haggard's castle. Through their journey, they come across the Red Bull - aiming for the unicorn, chasing after her until she submits to follow him wherever he wants (he's like an unicorn herder, in a way). Witnessing the unicorn in danger, Molly Grue begs Schmendrick to do something.

And here, you see, in case it wasn't clear before, while Schmendrick has true magic inside him, he cannot truly command it - he's just a channeler for it, and thus it does what it wants. He cannot conjure, say, a fireball if he wants to, he has to let magic run its course and it will do whatever it wants. He can't "choose" what it does, or how, and only has a slight grasp on the "when". I think, in my case, that inspiration/creativity comes to me in the same way magic comes to Schmendrick - we are both just channelers, vessels.

Back to the movie, Schmendrick's magic turns the unicorn into a human, making the Red Bull lose interest in her. However, this isn't pretty for the unicorn - she is now trapped in a mortal body, confused, afraid and feeing utterly disconnected with her new body and identity. She can even feel her body dying. Despite her internal tragedy, Schmendrick argues that, with this form, it will be easier for her to reach King Haggard's castle without the Red Bull after her, and so they proceed.

At the gates of King Haggard's castle, the troupe introduces themselves as Schmendrick the Magician, Molly Grue as his assistant, and the unicorn as his niece, "Lady Amalthea". Their plan is to stay in the castle as servants - Schmendrick will entertain the king with his clown magic, Molly Grue will assist with cleaning and cooking, and Lady Amalthea has enough struggling with her new body and identity. This way, by staying in the castle, they can look for the other unicorns.

However, they soon realize something's odd within the king's castle - he's alone, sans for his son, to the point they make double duty as guards. King Haggard lacks jesters, musicians, counsellors or other people you'd expect in a court - he has gotten rid of them all because they haven't made him happy, and refuses to keep anything that doesn't. He also mentions already having a magician, and Molly Grue points out that he's not been happy with him despite being more competent than him. King Haggard decides to fire his magician over an incompetent one, to see if that entertains him better.

King Haggard notices something odd with Lady Amalthea. He sees her forest in her eyes instead of his own reflection. She reacts scared, refuses to be touched or approached, and doesn't talk much, kinda like an introvert at a party. But I get what she's going through, she's still coming to terms with her transformation.

The prince, Lir, is also interested in Lady Amalthea, but doesn't really sense anything strange in her - he sees her as a beautiful lady, whom he tries to win her favor, going on dragon-defeating quests. However, she doesn't seem to be interested in him, or in anything, for that matter. This is where I made a dumb joke: "That's an Eastern dragon dumbass, those are the good ones".

I'm not going to lie, I never liked Prince Lir at first. We joked about him being "Prince Fuckboy", but to be fair, he just doesn't know what's with her. He believes he has to prove himself with great deeds to impress her - but of course, he doesn't know she's an immortal, legendary unicorn, and such things might be impressive to other mortals, but not her own kind. He loves her, and wants to help her with whatever she's looking for in his castle.

Molly Grue speaks to Lady Amalthea about Prince Lir's feelings, and this is where we realize something: Lady Amalthea is forgetting her past as an unicorn. She feels confused, and dazed, as if she was stuck in an eternal dream. What's worse, she's becoming mortal. Mortal, not just as in a human mortal, but as in getting used to being human at the cost of forgetting her past identity as an immortal being. She's aware of this, in the same way we might be lucid when dreaming, but she can also feel losing herself. She's starting to feel human emotions, like loneliness... and love.

On their side, Molly Grue and Schmendrick have been playing as fool for the King while searching through the entire castle for the Red Bull and the rest of the unicorns, with no results so far. However, Molly gets clues from the castle's cat - a fluffy fat beast with a peg leg and an eyepatch (but not necessarily a missing eye). He knows the unicorn for who she really is, and announces that if she doesn't turn back soon, she'll become fully mortal, and fully human, and the last unicorn will be no more. He needs to be coaxed with some scratching his back, but he finally gives Molly a few riddles pointing out to the location to the Red Bull. He also says he cannot cut to the chase and outright tell them where the Red Bull is, for he's a cat, and cats never give straight answers to anything.

Time passes. Schmendrick grows tired of being the king's clown, Molly finds parts of the cat's riddle, and Prince Lir is writing a poem to confess his feelings to Lady Amalthea. Also, apparently, King Haggard seems to be close to guessing what she is. Lady Amalthea is having dreams about her past, which now she finds strange and confusing. She's still living in a daze, and wants to get out of it. She eventually falls in love with Prince Lir, as well.

I used to hate this scene, and their love song, too. First time I watched this, I feared the unicorn was going to stay as a human forever, marry the prince, and live a bland happily ever after. That's why I hated the prince. It did give the impression she was going to surrender her confusing past to start a new life with something that does feel real: the prince. Is the discovery of love meant to be like this? Maybe not for everyone.

She also has an encounter with King Haggard. This is a relevant scene, because it shows more lore about the King - Prince Lir is not actually his biological son, but an abandoned baby he adopted when he was left at his doorstep. However, raising him did not fulfill him. Nothing does. Things might interest him at first, but eventually, it dies out. Only one thing manages to keep him happy: the same thing Lady Amalthea truly is. He knows who she is. Or, better said, who she was. Or who she's about to stop being. He shows her where the unicorns are: in the sea surrounding the castle. The Red Bull gathered, each and every one for him, and they're trapped in there. When he sees them, he feels young, alive, and happy again, just like the first time he witnessed one.

However, she can't see them. She has become not just mortal, not just human, but a human mortal who never saw unicorns, or doesn't believe in them. Lady Amalthea is terribly upset at this encounter, and cries - Schmendrick points out that if she becomes human enough to cry, no magic in the world can save her. As you can see, mortality is as unknowable to immortals as immortality is to mortals. What a concept.

Schmendrick has come to pick up Lady Amalthea because they're very sure they found the place where the Red Bull hides, but first, the three questers (Molly Grue is there too, as she should) need to solve a riddle with a mocking, unhelpful skeleton. He's the only one, aside from King Lear, who knows where the Red Bull is, but refuses to tell them. Clown music ensues as Schmendrick and Molly argue with him and the skeleton laughs his ass off.

The riddle involves bribing the skeleton with wine, but they haven't found a single drop around the castle - instead, Schmendrick pretends to turn a bottle of water into wine with his magic, saying it's not a very good wine - with barely any colour, body or smell. The skeleton falls for it - even if he can't actually taste the wine, he remembers how it feels, and that's enough for him. He even gets drunk out of nothing (Schmendrick drank the water).

After the skeleton tells them where to go to find the red bull (through the clock), he warns King Haggard as he's not allowed to let Lady Amalthea pass. He tries to stop them, but they eventually step through the clock and into the unknown. Prince Lir joins in too, following them, and they update him on everything - on who Lady Amalthea truly is, and on their quest to find the unicorns.

At this point, Lady Amalthea breaks down. She doesn't want to become an unicorn again, having embraced her human nature and wanting nothing but to live and die alongside Prince Lir. Schmendrick reminds her that, if she were to do that, the unicorns would remain trapped, and she would grow old and die. Amalthea begs to Prince Lir, but he too, agrees with Schmendrick - as a hero, he believes quests must come to an end, and despite him still loving her even if she's an unicorn, he puts saving the unicorns over running off with her and, in his words, having a happy ending in the middle of the story. "There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."

They finally encounter the Red Bull. He finally does know who Amalthea truly is, and chases after them. Schmendrick allows magic to run again through him, turning Amalthea back into an unicorn. The chase continues out of the cave and into the beach, where she runs at risk of being driven into the sea, trapped forever, just like the others. Prince Lir commands Schmendrick to save her through magic, but he replies, "Not all the magic in the world can help her now." And if magic can't save an unicorn... that's what heroes are for. Prince Lir sacrifices himself to defend her from the Red Bull.

However, this situation, Prince Lir's sacrifice, is exactly what makes something turn inside the last unicorn, what makes her fight back against the Red Bull, driving him into the sea instead, and freeing all the other unicorns in the process. As an immortal being, she had nothing to lose. Even her own life wouldn't matter, for unicorns might die, but never disappear completely. However, by becoming mortal, by becoming human, that's what gives her an edge over the other unicorns, who all submitted to the Red Bull. By having loved and lost, like a mortal, she finds the resolution to fight back.

And the scene where the unicorns are free, oh it's so beautiful. All of them, galloping over the waves like their white crests, and then running in stampede, aaway from the castle, as it crumbles and King Haggard looks astonished. He claims he knew Lady Amalthea was the last one, as the floor crumbles under his feet and falls into the sea.

At the shore, only Lady Amalthea has stayed with the party, all around a dying Lir. She heals him back, performing the most well known trick in unicorn magic. She looks forlornly at him, knowing they will never be together, but will forever remember him; just like the Harpy will never forget her hate towards Mommy Fortuna.

Before leaving, she has a talk with Schmendrick, asking him if he's happy now that he is a true wizard. He says humans don't always know if they're happy with what they get. She bides him farewell, and gallops away, back to her home forest, reminiscing. She will never be like the other unicorns anymore: for she is the only one who became mortal, loved, lost, and regretted.

Now, what is this movie about? I read theories: it's about memory, it's about the loss of innocence, it's a reflection on the structure of a fairytale - self aware, but not in a mocking way like Shrek and Shrek-wannabes. Well, I believe it can be all of this, and also a reflection on the nature of the mortal and divine, but especially? It's about opening oneself to all the experiences in life: the joyous ones, the painful ones, the ones that leave us confused, and especially, the ones that change us. Maybe not necessarily for the better, or for the worse, either. Simply, change. As someone who has had a rather sheltered life, I think now I know why this movie rings so much with me. It's about opening oneself to the world - life always welcomes you back.