The Boy and The Herron – Review

Nothing quite gets an audience as excited as a new Studio Ghibli film does, especially when Hayao Miyazaki is the Director attached. From such classics of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, the director has amassed a legendary status both at home in Japan and across the world. So, when coming out of retirement for another film, understandably an interest piqued.

The Boy and The Herron was perhaps the most secretive showing at the 67th BFI London Film Festival, with only but a poster and basic plot summary provided ahead of release in Japan earlier this year, yet still sold-out cinema screens across the island country on its opening weekend. The most expensive film the country has ever produced, The Boy and The Herron sets itself lofty ambitions.

Based on the book How Do You Live (one of Miyazaki’s favourite books from his childhood), the film follows Mahito, a young boy recently moved out to the countryside in wartime era Japan after the loss of his mother and as his father remarries. His adventure will take him through to a magical escape into the realms of fantasy.

Themes of grief, friendship and escapism remain prevalent throughout. The film explores these in through its visual storytelling that any Studio Ghibli project is well known for. For anyone that has dabbled in the filmography of Miyazaki, this will certainly feel familiar.

The animation is the strongpoint here, with the hand drawn style being the standout. The invitation to join the journey of the central characters as the narrative unravels, feels so warm and welcoming. Every aspect of the film is so clearly thought through, from music and visual cues, no one piece feels out of place here.

Both visually striking and affectionate, The Boy and The Herron is a fantastical piece of escapism cinema designed perfectly for audiences of all ages. Both adults and children will find themselves emotionally moved by the film and experience the incredible fantasy worlds that Miyazaki is so well known for building.

The Boy and The Herron releases in the UK Boxing Day 2023 and in the US December 8th.

Screened as part of the 67th BFI London Film Festival 2023

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