October 30, 2023

VIFF 2023 | How Does 'The Boy and the Heron' Live?

"All grey herons are liars."
Hayao Miyazaki | The Boy and the Heron (How Do You Live?) | Studio Ghibli | VIFF 2023
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2023—Legendary 82-year-old Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki emerges from his self-imposed retirement for a new, deeply personal film ten years in the making, The Boy and the Heron (aka How Do You Live?). A dreamlike elegy of wartime grief, the Studio Ghibli fantasy adventure is a dazzling, often confounding animated feature of childhood escapism.

During the Pacific theatre of World War II, twelve-year-old Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki) moves from Tokyo to the country with his father and pregnant stepmother/aunt after his mother dies in a tragic hospital fire. Racked with grief, he reluctantly sets off on a magical quest in another realm led by a mysterious talking grey heron as he chases the ghosts of his family's past on his way to grieving his mother's loss and moving on with his new family unit.

The Boy and the Heron is filled with so many bittersweet Miyazaki trademarks of wonderment while wrapping elements from each of his previous films. Likely his least penetrable and most disjointed effort, there's no sugarcoating or handholding as audiences are quickly dropped into an unexplained world of terrifying befuddlement.

Miyazaki continues his legacy of masterfuly fantasical animated storytelling by layering its themes and how to deal with death in children through awe-inspiring visuals. The Boy and the Heron is an elegiac vision of a magical kingdom built on the disillusionment of humanity. It's a dense work of high-minded aristry told without compromise or much explanation.

The Boy and the Heron screened at the 2023 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Special Presentations series at the Vancouver Playhouse.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Inverse / Polygon

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