The Boy and the Heron - Review (London Film Festival 2023)
How Do You Live? 4 / 5
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Mahito, haunted by his mother’s tragic death is visited by a persistent grey heron, dubbing him the “long-awaited one.”
It's so exciting that we are still able to get a brand new Hayao Miyazaki creation on the big screen. A return to form after some experimental shorts and features, The Boy and The Heron transports us back to fantastical lands filled with weird and wonderful creatures with a style, soul and heart that only Studio Ghibli can deliver.
Immediately whisps of flames, smoke and chaos fill the screen, throwing you headfirst into this new adventure. Within seconds you are reminded why Ghibli and Miyazaki are masters of visual storytelling with a film that uses its artistry to explore the impact of grief through the innocence and escapist imagination of childhood.
The Boy & The Heron is quite overwhelming on first watch. It throws so much at you. Just as you settle in, a mischievous grey heron's appearance begins a chain of events that takes you from 1940s Japan to mysterious new worlds filled with energetic parakeets, pelicans and Warawaras. And that's before you begin to peel back the many layers to discover why we have been taken on this journey. It demands multiple viewings to be fully appreciated.
It goes without saying that this is a beautiful film. The traditional character designs are combined with stunning detailed backgrounds, sparingly using modern 3D tools to immerse us in this handcrafted fantasy. Whether this is Miyazaki's swansong or not - The Boy and The Heron is a bold and effective piece that may not reach the heights of Ghibli's past work but in their defence, the bar is astonishingly high.