Coraline: The perfect movie to get you in a fall mood this year


Content warning: This story contains spoilers for Coraline (2009)

Coraline hit theatres in February of 2009 and instantly became one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a perfect culmination of Henry Sellick and Laika studios’ wonderfully creative filming environment and Neil Gaiman’s curious and thoughtful writing style. The movie delivers an end product of a creepy, unimaginably interesting and truly lovable film. 

The beginning of this movie focuses on showing how unhappy Coraline is with her current life. She dislikes her home and her parents, but she has a distaste for one character in particular–Wybie Lovat. Wybie is an interesting character as he wasn’t featured in the book and mostly serves as a conscience for Coraline. He exists to deliver necessary plot points and warn Coraline of danger. 

One of the most crucial parts of the movie that Wybie delivers is the doll. After their initial meeting, Wybie leaves a doll on Coraline’s door step that looks nearly identical to her. He claims to have found it in his grandmother’s trunk. The doll is clad with yellow rain boots, a raincoat, her shining blue hair, and black button eyes. Coraline quickly takes a liking to this doll.

While exploring the house with her nicknamed “little me,” Coraline comes across a small door hidden by moving boxes. She opens it to find nothing but a brick wall, the scene then skips to a short but sweet dinner scene with her parents. We spend just about all of the movie inside her home, so getting to see her explore it and show all the little details in it really adds an extra layer of wonder to this film

Coraline’s parents aren’t made out to be likable characters for the most part. They’re displayed as uninterested, crass, ignorant and overall uncaring of Coraline. They are both shown pushing her away in favor of doing work, and ignoring her opinions on topics like what clothing she gets to wear and what activities she does during the day. While they add a nice layer of depth to the movie, I find them extremely annoying and awful in almost every way. 

Then comes the plot twist, after Coraline spots mice in her room and decides to follow them. Conveniently, they lead her to the small door, only this time, it’s open.

 We’re met with the sight of a tunnel leading to what looks to be another portion of Coraline’s house. There’s humming from the kitchen, and as the camera turns, we see someone that looks to be Coraline’s mother. It’s immediately clear that she’s not, though. She looks just like her, except for a pair of shiny black buttons in place of eyes.

The woman introduces herself as Coraline’s Other Mother. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why would Coraline go through the door?” Or maybe you’re thinking, “What is an ‘Other Mother?” Unfortunately the next scene is much too interesting to pause just to answer questions. 

Her Other Mother tells Coraline to fetch her Other Father. He ushers Coraline to the dinner table to eat. 

This dinner scene is easily my favorite scene in the movie. Not only do we get to see a gravy train made out of a real toy train that circles the table, but we get our first glimpse into what this “Other World” is.

 The main point of the Other World is to reflect Coraline’s life in a more “perfect” light. The house is brighter, her parents are kinder, her room is full of her favorite toys.

But her neighbors are my favorite characters, especially in the Other World. There are two women who live downstairs, and a man that lives above her family’s portion of the house. 

The two women, April Spink and Miriam Forcible, become much more important in the Other World, but in the small interactions they have with Coraline in the beginning of the movie, they warn her of the dangers behind the little door through tea leaf readings and other somewhat reliable means.

Her third Neighbor, the Amazing Mister Bobinsky, is about the same. He runs what he describes as a “jumping mouse circus.” 

“The mice asked me to give you message. They say, ‘do not go through little door,” Mister Bobinsky tells Coraline.

But in the Other World, these characters truly light up. The ladies do a dramatic trapeze performance while shedding their old-woman skin and transforming into the young show women they once were. And Mister Bobinsky’s mouse circus comes to life in a big musical performance with trumpets and tubas and drums. 

It’s during these scenes with the Other Neighbors that we get introduced to Other Wybie. Other Wybie is almost exactly the same as the normal Wybie, except for the fact that he can’t talk. The Other Mother remarks, “I thought you’d like him more if he talked a little less!” Unfortunately for normal Wybie, I find Other Wybie millions of times more interesting. He shows more character than Wybie ever does, and really helps add to the creepy and controlling personality of the Other Mother in later scenes.

A dark twist occurs when we cut to a shot of the Other Parents and Coraline sitting at the dinner table. The Other Mother pushes a box towards Coraline. The box holds a needle, some thread, and two black buttons. Coraline is given an offer to stay in the Other World forever. All she has to do is let her Other Parents sew the buttons into her eyes.

Thankfully, we see some rationale from Coraline. She adamantly refuses and runs off to go to bed. But when she wakes up, she’s not in her room. She’s still in the Other World. 

She finally gathers the strength to confront the Other Mother which leads to Coraline being thrown into a hidden room behind a mirror. In it, we see three of the most important characters in this movie–the ghost children.

These children give us the true backstory of the Other Mother, or in their words, the Beldam. They tell us that they lived similar lives to Coraline. They were unhappy with their families and lives, but unlike her, they let the Beldam sew buttons into their eyes.

And woah, that’s a lot. It’s never told explicitly what the Beldam did with these children, but it’s heavily implied that she used them as some sort of sustenance. Had Coraline agreed to stay, she would have been next. 

Coraline is told by the ghosts that if she can find their eyes, they will all be set free. She agrees to the deal before being rescued from her mirror prison by Other Wybie and returning to her true world. 

From here the movie moves very fast.

Coraline finds that her parents are missing. She worries about it and argues with Wybie before returning to the Other World. She talks the Beldam into playing a game where she finds the ghosts’ eyes, along with her parents. She wins the game but has to fight the Beldam. Coraline escapes but the ghosts tell her she needs to get rid of the key to the little door. She fights the Beldams’s dismembered hand and disposes of the key. With this, we meet the conclusion to our movie. 

I didn’t discuss a few of the main characters mostly because I felt they were too interesting to just be brushed over. One of those is the Other Father. He, like many other characters, acts to warn Coraline of the danger of the Beldam. But he is special in that he was created by the Beldam herself. 

It’s never said why he acts out like this, but my theory has always been that the Beldam needs to feed every number of years. Without feeding she grows weak, which causes her illusions to be weaker and serve Coraline rather than herself. 

Another character I didn’t mention is the cat. The cat is the only character we see that can exist in both worlds without being controlled by the Beldam. While he’s in the other world, the cat talks to Coraline and helps her along in her escape. He claims that the Beldam hates cats, and tries to keep him out. But he seems all around unaffected by her, and in his words, “I come and go as I please.” I find his character hard to understand, but people online theorize that he’s a spy for the Beldam. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth, but to each their own. 

To me, this movie brings all kinds of nostalgia and always gets me in the right mood for autumn. Even if you don’t have the same attachment to it, I 100 percent recommend it to get you ready for the fall season this year.