The Boy And The Heron Dir: Hayao Miyazaki. (Film Review)

The Boy And The Heron

The Boy and The Heron (Japanese : 君たちはどう生きるか) is the latest film from Studio Ghibli – it evokes an ecstasy of spirit, fantasy and connection.

Japanese Cast includes : Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Takuya Kimura, Kô Shibasaki, Shohei Hino and Jun Kunimura 

English Cast includes : Robert Pattinson, Florence Pugh, Christian Bale, Gemma Chan, Mark Hammil and Luca Padocan

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released with almost zero marketing, The Boy and the Heronis another ‘final film’ from the creator (a statement already rumoured to be untrue).

The original story of The Boy and The Heron (partially based on Miyazaki’s own life) strikes the chords of a classic Studio Ghibli – Loveable characters, magical spirits and astoundingly beautiful settings.

However, The Boy and the Heron has a story that is titanic compared to quainter tales outlined in other Ghibli releases. It is a monumental saga of liminal heaven, tragedy through the eyes of a child, the teetering world through the eyes of the Creator and the foibles of the hungry and desperate.

I recall leaving the cinema thinking The Boy and the Heron seemed neither groundbreaking or astonishing. It was really damn good but nothing more. It felt like just another Studio Ghibli movie. Nothing crazy.

That is crazy! I am but a fool!

The bar that Miyazaki has set is so high and so consistently reached that The Boy and the Heron felt comfortably and totally placed in the Ghibli oeuvre. Please read that sentence again and note it is a high order compliment.

The Boy and the Heron traverses a complex emotional landscape. It wrestles with grief, denial, loss, tragedy, forgiveness and punishment – each scene holds a sense of growth and forward motion. Ideas of birth, death (and the bounty of liminal spaces between) are naturally presented with an enchanting (and sometimes devastating) perspective.

The Boy and The Heron has a delicate balance in the presentation of these themes. Set in the Pacific War, and with main characters working directly in the production of military material, it would be easy to revert to boring misery-porn pointing out the obvious fact that war is sad.

The Boy and the Heron never preaches morality in this way. Miyazaki doesn’t present the war as anything other than what is happening around Mihato, the young boy who is the films main character. It creates grief, pain, his Fathers line of work and a sense of reason to the world. This is how it is for the child, and thus, the audience.

The Boy and the Heron faithfully employs the imagery that evokes nostalgia in anyone who has taken refuge in the ma (‘gap’, ‘space’, ‘pause’) that the tranquil films of Miyazaki consistently present. Scenes take their time. Characters eat and drink and sleep and move and observe with a real sense of daily task. This is wonderfully refreshing when juxtaposed with the common frenetic tension-building in western cinema.

The Boy and the Heron allows the audience to breathe, rather than pressuring them to hold their breath.

These quiet moments may be just why so many people can draw the blankets of Studio Ghibli around their shoulders and be comforted by its warmth and weight. The Boy and the Heron will be a future comfort to many.

Marlon Millwood

In Cinemas now. Click here for showtimes and tickets