Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Written by: Riko Sakaguchi, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, David Freedman, Lynda Freedman
Starring: Ruby Barnhill, Louis Ashbourne Serkis (the son of Andy Serkis!), Lynda Baron, Morwenna Banks, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent
Based on the novel by Mary Stewart
Review by Stephanie Cooke
Mary and the Witch’s Flower tells the story of a young girl named Mary who isn’t much good at anything. One day, she wanders into the woods and finds a mysterious flower. The flower grants Mary temporary magical powers that unveil a whole new world she didn’t know existed. Just as she begins to fall in love with the world of magic, she uncovers a sinister plot that revolves around the mysterious flower from the woods.
Along with her newfound friend, Peter, and a black cat, Mary must put a stop to the plans that a pair of power hungry professors have schemed up.
This is the most Ghibli non-Ghibli film that I have ever seen. It took so many elements of what I love from those movies and incorporated them into this. It’s unfair to compare but also impossible not to after the incredible bar that has been set over the years. Especially since writer and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi comes from Studio Ghibli where he worked on such films as The Secret World of Arrietty, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle.
With Studio Ghibli doing less and less these days (although the retirement that was announced a while back seems to keep getting revoked…), it’s nice to see that Studio Ponoc is picking up where Miyazaki’s studio of masterpieces left off.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is every bit as enchanting as any Studio Ghibli films that have come before. Again, I can’t stop comparing them but I don’t think that this is a bad thing. To me, Studio Ghibli is the gold standard of animation perfection. Mary and the Witch’s Flower feels partially like Kiki’s Delivery Service with elements of Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away.
One of the things that I feel is respected and embodied in this film is Miyazaki’s well-rounded female characters. Mary is flawed, and the first to admit that she isn’t much good at anything. It doesn’t stop her from doing the right thing and trying to make sure that she does everything in her power to help others.
I also loved that she doesn’t need saving. The other kid Mary’s age is a boy named Peter. There’s no romantic dynamic between them and instead there is a mutual respect for each other… after they get over the initial childhood dislike of someone of the opposite sex, which comes across familiar and playful (when they first meet, Peter teases Mary).
The beautiful landscapes and scenery in the film are breathtaking. They invoked so many feelings and helped set the entire film. Honestly, if you’ve ever seen any Studio Ghibli film, you’ll understand the level of background art that can be expected in Mary and the Witch’s Flower.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower Blu-ray Special Features:
- NTV Special: Creating Mary and The Witch’s Flower
- A Special Conversation: Sekai No Owari, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and Yoshiaki Nishimura
- Film Completion Press Conference
- Theatrical Promotional Movie
- Interview with the Filmmakers
- TV Spots
Buy it! This is a brilliant start to Studio Ponoc’s slate of films. I loved the story, the characters, the art, and just about everything to do with this entire production. You can feel the love and passion that went into this project, and I can’t wait to see more from the future gold standard studio of animated classics.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is available on Blu-ray on May 1, 2018.