The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge) (1956)
Director: Albert Lamorisse
Writer: Albert Lamorisse
What a delightful film this is! I really feel I don't need to say anything else, except go watch it! It won't take you very long; 35 minutes, tops. And share with a real child, or just your own inner one.
The plot sounds like it comes straight from a Pixar film (a high compliment, I assure you): a young boy is befriended by a sentient red balloon, who follows him around war-scarred streets in 1950s Paris. This simple idea is beautifully presented by Lamorisse, who uses music and visuals to tell the story. There is little dialogue, only a few shouts of 'Ballon rouge!' by the little boy. The special effects appear to be all in-camera, and are simple yet very effective.
As with many films like this, the balloon is symbolic: of what, though, is left up to the viewer. Is it the human soul/spirit? Innocence? Joy? Love? For me, it is all of these things. Again, I urge you to go and watch this yourselves. The last shot is one of the best in cinema.