The Boy and the Heron: Pushing through Time

The Boy and the Heron is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli.  At the beginning of the film, Mahito loses his Mum in a drastic fire. A year after this, he and his father move from Tokyo to the countryside to live with his new stepmother, Natsuko, who is pregnant. Mahito isn’t too pleased with his new situation; he’s getting picked on at school, obviously misses his mother, and a pesky heron keeps bothering him. This heron eventually speaks to Mahito, telling him that his mother was still alive, and it could lead him to her. Mahito doesn’t believe the heron and chases it to an old house on the grounds in an attempt to get rid of it, with no success. But when Natsuko goes missing near the house, Mahito’s mission to rescue her leads him to a magical world where it seems time has no effect.

The film starts off in a somewhat ‘real’ place. I put ‘real’ in quotes because while the story does start more grounded, the animation does a great job at painting how overwhelming the fire that Mahito loses his mother in truly is. And then, as the movie continues, the film gets increasingly magical and weird. I haven’t followed Studio Ghibli projects like I know a lot of people have, but I do remember being introduced to Howl’s Moving Castle and being awestruck by how oddly fascinating I found it. The Boy and the Heron reminded me of that film, which makes sense as I came to find out those two movies are both by Miyazaki (this is how unfamiliar I was with his work). The film swallows the audience into wonder (accompanied by a beautiful score) and brings you to a place where imagination runs free.

The Boy and the Heron seems to deal with acceptance. In the magical world, Mahito meets interesting new and (familiar) characters who help him on his quest. He has many opportunities to grow- where he must defend some of these characters, and in the end, he is faced with the decision of what he wants his life to be. In this new world, Mahito has a chance to stay in a place where he has what he’s been missing, the only problem is this new world isn’t real.

I’ve been thinking recently about experiences being frozen in time, typically a time and, therefore, an experience that we can’t get back. There are many moments in my life that I wish I could revisit, even if just for a few minutes. But with all my wishful thinking and reminiscing, I can’t actually do that. Really, the only thing I can do is keep moving forward. Life keeps moving, so what kind of person do we want to be as we go on? And what do we do with the memories we made with our loved ones along the way? Especially if they’re no longer with us. The Boy and the Heron explores those questions and reminds us of how to push through.

The Boy and the Heron is available in theatres on December 8th, 2023.

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