The Boy and the Heron review – Miyazaki enchants in latest Studio Ghibli epic | Films | Entertainment

3 min read

It’s been 10 years since acclaimed Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki released his “final” film The Wind Rises. And yet the almost 83-year-old Studio Ghibli legend can’t help but come out of retirement.

Following the 2018 short Boro the Caterpillar, he set to work on his latest fantasy film, The Boy and the Heron.

Inspired by the existential Japanese novel How Do You Live?, which features in the movie, the animation has some familiar tropes to the likes of Narnia, Pan’s Labyrinth, Alice in Wonderland and the filmmaker’s very own masterpiece, Spirited Away.

During the Second World War, 12-year-old Mahito is evacuated to the countryside following the death of his mother in a Tokyo hospital fire.

There he’s harassed by a heron that’s more enchanted than it seems; acting as the boy’s white rabbit in leading him into a strange and fantastical world.

As is usual with Miyazaki, the animation and attention to detail are exquisite. From the grotesque, bizarre monsters like the Heron and man-eating parakeets to the Eden-like beauty and comfort of the way he captures food and nature, the Studio Ghibli legend truly is a master of his art. Esquing straightforward narrative, The Boy and the Heron is dream-like in its structure with themes such as grief and how best to live one’s life explored in some often ambiguous sequences. The film is also somewhat autobiographical for the elderly director, looking back on his life, work and childhood.

Although an engaging and thoughtful piece with stunning imagery, it’s not quite at the levels of Miyazaki’s very best. Alongside its stretching two-hour runtime, there is something of an exposition dump right near the end that’s rushed through before the conclusion. The movie was also quite baffling at times and probably needs more than one viewing, yet to be honest this is something we relish. Both the Japanese subtitled version and English dub are coming to UK cinemas with an incredible cast for the latter from Robert Pattinson, Gemma Chan, Christian Bale and Mark Hamill to Florence Pugh, Willem Dafoe and Dave Bautista.

As for all this talk of this being the director’s last Studio Ghibli film, it turns out he’s already at work on his next “final” movie.

Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki told Liberation: “He’s thinking about this next project every day, and I can’t stop him — in fact, I’ve given up. I no longer try to dissuade him, even if he were to make a failed film. In life, it’s only the work that delights him. We were talking again just now, and he said something incredible to me. He said, ‘By the way, what was my last film about? I can’t remember.’ He started talking about a new project, so I’m not stopping him. As long as he’s working, I won’t be able to retire. He’s 82, and I think he’ll go on until he’s 90. I’m going with him.”

Some might say quit while you’re ahead, but it seems like continuing his art is what gives Miyazaki purpose, answering his own “How do you live?” And as long as he’s around his fans will be there, waiting eagerly for the next step into a reflective world of wonder.

The Boy and the Heron hits UK cinemas on Boxing Day.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours