Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mary and the Witch's Flower

Based on The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, the Japanese anime Mary and the Witch's Flower begins in fire prior to settling down and introducing us to the precocious Mary (Hana Sugisaki/Ruby Barnhill) living in the lonely countryside with her Great-Aunt Charlotte (Shinobu Otake/Lynda Baron). Despite her best efforts and sunny attitude, Mary struggles with the lack of other children to play with and still not quite fitting in with the adults.

Over the course of a handful of days, Mary will make several discoveries which will change her life beginning with meeting a neighbor boy and discovering the rarest of flowers deep in the woods. While not initially connected, both will be part of Mary's introduction to a larger world of witches and magic which will amaze and frighten her as the flower and a broomstick, both left abandoned in the woods long, long ago, lead her to the gates of Endor College for witches.

Whether you view the English-dubbed version (whose voice cast includes Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent) or the original Japanese, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi's film offers a visual delight as he continues to build on his Studio Ghibli roots and create impressive films. Although Stewart's original story predates Harry Potter by a number of years, the film does have a similar feel to the early Potter books and films as our protagonist is exposed to wonders, and horrors, she never knew existed. Mary offers a protagonist flawed in all the right ways as she overcomes mistakes and circumstances beyond her understanding to do the right thing.

Available on both Blu-ray and DVD, extras include a documentary on the making of the film, interviews with the filmmakers, press conference footage, trailers, and television spots.

[Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Blu-ray $29.98 / DVD $22.98]

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