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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

The Boy and the Heron (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jan 18


Featuring the voices of Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Aimyon, Yoshino Kimura, Shōhei Hino, Ko Shibasaki, Takuya Kimura, Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Kunimura, Keiko Takeshita, Jun Fubuki, Sawako Agawa, Shinobu Otake and Karen Takizawa. (Japanese version)

Featuring the voices of Luca Padovan, Robert Pattinson, Karen Fukuhara, Gemma Chan, Christian Bale, Mark Hamill, Florence Pugh, Willem Dafoe, Dave Bautista, Mamoudou Athie, Tony Revolori and Dan Stevens. (English version)

Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

Distributed by GKids. 124 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The Boy and the Heron was a beautiful closing piece to Mr. Hayao Miyazaki’s thirty-eight-year career in animation with Studio Ghibli. As one of the film studio’s three founders, and undoubtedly one of Japan’s greatest animation directors, Mr. Miyazaki has overseen and worked on fourteen Ghibli films, usually as a director. Some of his classics include Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle.

As someone who has seen Mr. Miyazaki’s movies throughout my entire life, I can say that a commonality shared amongst these classics is the heart and meaning put into each of the movie’s plots. When I was given the opportunity to attend a The Boy and the Heron screening, I was excited to find the heart in the story. From the film’s beginning, it was charming like all Ghibli films, and focused on whimsical themes. However, despite the fantastic elements, the story seemed to hold much more in its meaning. 

The plot follows a boy named Manitoba Maki whose widowed father remarries and moves him to the countryside. Once Mahito arrives in his new home, strange occurrences start to happen surrounding a particular grey heron that lurks around the grounds and is well known by the members of the household.

The story takes a mysterious turn when the heron begins to call out to Mahito and attempts to bring him to a mysterious tower on the property. The tower in question was supposedly built by an ancestor of the family, who eventually went mad within its walls. Now, as it falls into further disarray, there is a growing magic inside that leads to a parallel realm. Throughout it await answers to the mysteries of the family, and a journey into accepting the future and its changes.

While discussing the film with my guest at the screening, she pointed out that she interpreted the movie as a metaphor for Mr. Miyazaki’s retirement. There is a plot point of a character asking to pass control of the tower to Mahito, with slight reluctance.

However, this character does gain enough faith to put his worries to rest and move on.

This piece of the story bears a resemblance to Mr. Miyazaki’s story, as at the age of 83, he prepares to pass the torch of his career to his son. Whether or not this has any correlation to this theme in the movie is unknown, but it is very plausible at the place that the character – and director – find themselves in at this time.

A touching feeling I felt multiple times throughout my viewing of the film, was the beauty of the animation and charm that so many Ghibli movies deliver. Despite seeing the film in Japanese with subtitles (it is also available dubbed into English), the humor still landed perfectly, and the feelings in each serious moment was reciprocated by the audience. The animated films from this timeless studio have such a way about them that can engage and bring forth feelings from their viewers, no matter where they are in this world. It is a truly beautiful thing to witness art bringing people together.

Jordan Wagner

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: December 6, 2023.

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