Monday, December 18, 2023

The Boy and the Heron

The latest from writer/director Hayao Miyazaki follows a familiar formula of a child dragged into an unusual and magical world. Based on experiences Miyazaki had as a child with loss, the film is a personal one for him with a message of striving to overcome grief and loss and the growth from childhood into adulthood by learning to unselfishly care for others.

In the case of The Boy and the Heron, our protagonist is young Mahito (Soma Santoki). After the death of his mother in a hospital fire during the Pacific War, Mahito's father (Takuya Kimura) moves the two out of Tokyo and into the countryside where the widower's sister-in-law (Yoshino Kimura) is waiting to become his new wife, and Mahito's new mother. With his father busy with the war effort, Mahito is left mostly to himself, especially after an incident at school. On the grounds of the estate, Mahito will come across a Grey Heron (Masaki Suda) interested in pushing the young boy toward the mysterious tower where his granduncle (Shōhei Hino) disappeared years ago.

The film is quite dreamlike. In fact, given the head injury Mahito suffers early in the film, The Boy and the Heron has a definite Wizard of Oz feel towards its surreal story unfolding. Personally, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Heron, but loved the various odd characters such as the Warawara which the film is packed full of. Casting oversized parakeets as militant enforcers is just the kind of odd genius you'll find sprinkled throughout the film which will act as a crucible for Mahito. While not ready, Mahito does not shy away from the path laid in front of him which provides a hero journey allowing him to come to grips with his mother's death, the aunt who loves him, and a changing world.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: The Boy and the Heron
  • IMDb: link

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