It’s a tradition chez Bride to select a positive, feel-good film to watch on New Year’s Eve as a way of avoiding the often terrible TV coverage, though we always make sure to be done by the Bells when we will have a glass of whisky and some shortbread.
I’m Scottish, what can I say.
This year’s film was Mary & the Witch’s Flower, a Christmas gift from my brother to the Book God . Mary is the first film from Studio Ponoc, the successor to Studio Ghibli, and is based on the 1971 children’s book The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart (or Mearî Suchuâtô as she is in Japanese.)
Mary is spending the summer at her great-aunt’s house waiting for her parents to return from a trip. She’s bored and spends her time investigating the local woods in the company of a black cat where she finds a beautiful blue flower and a broomstick. Temporarily possessed with magic powers, Mary finds herself at Endor College, a sort of proto-Hogwarts, where she makes a significant impression. But things are not at all what they seem.
This is a simply lovely film, full of beautiful imagery and excellent animation. Mary herself is a very engaging character. I hate the word feisty but I can’t think of an alternative just now to describe Mary, a child full of adventure and confidence.
There is darkness in the film, as the staff of Endor College (voiced by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent) are obsessed with experiments in transformation which have a real Doctor Moreau feeling.
A number of the elements in the story are very familiar, and I would have liked to see more of Mary’s relationship with her great-aunt which has an important role in the later stages of the story in a way that felt a bit too convenient. But that doesn’t detract from a beautiful story which proved to be an ideal end to 2018.
Dazzling details: directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Meari to majo no hana (original title) is 103 minutes long and rated U – suitable for everyone as long as you don’t mind very mild threat.