This is a delicate, beautiful movie about growing up, understanding our families and what it means to be a sibling.
“Mirai,” a Japanese animated film, suitable for family viewing, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2018.
It is not, surprisingly, from Studio Ghibli Inc, the force behind some of the world’s most popular Japanese animation such as “The Wind Rises” and “My Neighbor Tortoro.” This is from animation artist Mamoru Hosoda (“Wolf Children”) who tells a complex, yet simple, story about sibling rivalry and challenges working parents face.
It is about the human condition, and how our past and our future define us. It’s also, on another level, a story about growing up and the importance of thinking about others.
Four-year-old Kun, who plays happily with his dog Yukko, is the center of his parents’ universe until his parents bring home his infant sister Mirai (which is Japanese for “future.”)
Suddenly, Kun finds all his mother’s attention focus on Mirai. The little boy throws tantrums and even throws a toy train at his little sister.
His architect father cares of the children while their mother is away at work. Dad is distracted, and although Kun wants his attention, he is more likely to try to concentrate on his work or Mirai.
The sulking Kun wanders into a garden, which, it turns out, is magical. In a kind of “A Christmas Carol” approach, Kun is visited by a number of characters — including Yukko, the dog — from his past, present and future. He meets his grandfather, who offers the child, who is just learning to ride a bicycle, some helpful advice about looking up and forward instead of being afraid.
He meets a younger version of his mother, and an older version of his sister, too. The teenage Mirai enlists Kun’s help, even sneaking into the house with him to set things right while their father focuses elsewhere.
The simple, elegant piano score by Masakatsu Takagi provides a magical backdrop of its own.
Kids will appreciate this tale. They will understand Kun’s frustration at how the arrival of his sibling turned his world upside-down. Adults will appreciate the little squabbles between the parents, and the way they mature. We learn about the way each person grew up, why they hold certain things dear, and how all of this is a part of both Kun and Mirai.
I love the graceful look of the animation and the characters, which are a far cry from the bright palettes and action-packed scenarios of many other animated films.
This is a film the entire family can embrace. And who knows what conversations it might start about family members who came before?
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