This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Lise’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
This was my first foray into Anime and what a debut it was. Obviously I can't compare it to other Anime films, or say anything interesting about the studio or its history. All I can do is say why I loved this film.
Mei was the first reason I was charmed by this film. I loved:
- the way Mei came down the stairs holding the little black creature, with her small knees all sideways because she couldn't use her hands to balance herself.
- the way Mei followed her big sister everywhere and repeated whatever she said.
- the way she slept. There was a scene where the camera panned over Satsuke, Mei and their father sleeping. Satsuke and her father were lying on their back parallel to the bed, but when we got to Mei, she was way up at the top of the bad almost perpendicular to it with the covers half off. Beautiful.
- the way she fell and got back up exclaiming to her big sister that she didn't cry.
I love this girl. She and I could have been best friends when we were 10. She is curious, energetic, helpful and respectful. But mostly she is just a girl. Not a princess. Not a wannabe girlfriend. Not a fashion plate. Just a real regular 10 year old girl. More important, she could be just a real regular girl without having to insist on the point. What I mean is that in many other films when a girl wants to be a normal girl it is usually shown by having her rebel against someone who wants her to be different. A mother who wants her to dress in skirts where the girl wants to wear pants or a friend who dreams of finding prince charming so that the girl could roll her eyes. Here no such devices were required. Satsuke was just Satsuke and I love Hayao Miyazaki for that.
When first introduced to Granny I expected her to have some sort of special powers or be some sort of witch. I expected this because Mei was afraid of her and hid behind her sister's skirt upon meeting her. In any other film that is a cue; children are never wrong about such things. It was still too early in the film for me to understand that Miyazaki is too sophisticated for such elementary devices.
The boy who begrudgingly takes a shine to Satsuke and gets an extra hop in his step and extra energy to fly his planes after seeing her.
I loved that she isn't introduced for the longest time. I just assumed the girls were motherless. When we discover they do have a mother and that she is in the hospital, it wasn't with big fanfare, it wasn't with violins to create a big cinematic moment, it was done matter-of-factly and because of that we just accepted it much the way the girls have for a long time.
I loved that we are never told why the mother is in the hospital. It isn't important. All that matters is that she's not home, hasn't been home for a long time, and may not come home for a long time. Here again Miyazaki ignored what could have been such an easy 'dramatic' scene. He didn't use the mother's illness to create 'big' scenes. Even the end avoided the big sentimental scene. Surely it should have ended with the girls delivering the corn to their mother in her hospital room. I mean the father was already there, the mother was sitting up and talking, how could the director avoid a final scene of the girls delivering the corn with everyone sitting on the bed chatting happily while the camera pulls out from the hospital window?
I can't tell you what it meant to me that he didn't follow that route. I can't tell you how much I despise the fact that my expectations in film have been moulded by the trite. I can't tell you how ecstatic I get when I discover films (and writers and directors) that do it differently and do it well.
And then, of course, there is Totoro holding his umbrella being followed by the little Totoros holding their own makeshift versions. Just beautiful. Beautiful, I tell ya.