The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family's residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered.
Upon being sent to live with relatives in the countryside, an emotionally distant adolescent girl becomes obsessed with an abandoned mansion and infatuated with a girl who lives there - a girl who may or may not be real.
College student Hana falls in love with another student who turns out to be a werewolf, who dies in an accident after their second child. Hana moves to the rural countryside where her husband grew up to raise her two werewolf children.
When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.
Having seen Tales from Earthsea, I wasn't expecting much from this film, although it had garnered some positive feedback. Goro Miyazaki had already shown us that he didn't share his father's magical touch, creative ingenuity and ability to tell timeless stories. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Though to be fair, the story was written by Hayao Miyazaki so at least part of the film's quality can be attributed to him and not his son.
Still, Goro Miyazaki DID direct this film and with it he proves that he actually has some promise as a film artist. This is a delightful little film about young love, willingness to endure through hardship and the importance of trying even when it seems pointless. It's a story told well, with beautiful animation, identifiable and likable characters and many scenes that have stuck with me since then. The story of two young people in love and all the obstacles in their way is one that has been told countless times, but the version of this film is one of better ones I've seen. It's not flamboyant, neither is it too sweet or too clinical, rather it feels real. Sure it's a bit extraordinary, like a good story should be, but it still feels like I could learn something from it.
So yes, the story and the characters are the best part of this film, for which we have to thank pappa Miyazaki, but I liked the contributions of the son as well. The atmosphere, the mood of the film, the feeling of mid-century Japan, the way all the characters interacted with each other. As stated before, it all felt just extraordinary enough to catch our interest, but not too much so that it became unbelievable.
Though, in retrospect, I cannot say that I felt like I had seen something groundbreaking when I walked out of the theater. It is a fine movie by all accounts and Studio Ghibli can be proud to call it one of theirs, but it lacked that certain spark that all great films have. In that one singular aspect this film just wasn't all that extraordinary. It doesn't mean that you should see it, though, far from it. It's a film with heart, feeling and passion. It has cheer, humour and melodrama to spare and it will make you feel good, like a family film should.
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