Friday, May 10, 2019

Movie Review: Mirai

Mirai *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda.
Written by: Mamoru Hosoda.
Starring: Rebecca Hall (Mother), John Cho (Father), Daniel Dae Kim (Great Grandfather), Jaden Waldman (Kun), Victoria Grace (Mirai), Crispin Freeman (Mysterious Man), Eileen T’Kaye (The Grandmother), Victor Brandt (The Grandfather).
The first 15 minutes or so of Mirai are about as accurate a portrait of what it’s like to raise two kids as you are likely to see in an anime film. Young Kun is probably around four, when his parents return home one day with his new baby sister – who they will eventually call Mirai. Kun doesn’t take this well – he feels like he is being replaced, that his parents don’t love him anymore, and he ends up acting out. He tries to get attention, and when he doesn’t get it, he lashes out, he throws temper tantrums, and basically acts like a brat. The baby is, well, a baby so that’s no picnic either. And the parents are doing everything possible to try and keep things going.
That’s the first 15 minutes, and then the film introduces its fantasy element – and while the rest of the film is still delightful and charming, I kind of wish we would have stayed in the vein of the first segment – without the fantasy. The rest of the film will be about Kun meeting various members of his family in their yard around the magical tree, which we are told holds his entire family’s history in it. At first, he’ll meet a strange man – who he will figure out is really his family dog. Later, there will be a teenage version of his baby sister Mirai, his mother from when she was his age, and a trip to see his great grandfather. There will also be a very scary train trip.
Mirai is a film about children, and I guess it would work for older ones – ones that are past the stage Kun is in, and could accept what brat’s little kids can be. But I almost think it’s more for the parents in the crowd, then the kids. There are a few conversations the parents have – voiced by Rebecca Hall and John Cho in the English version – about whether or not they are good parents. She worries that she works too much, and cannot be there for her kids. He worries that he missed Kun as a baby, and now that he’s the stay at home parent, he was to deal with both him and Mirai. We get the sense that there’s hasn’t always been a blissful marriage – no marriage is – but although they struggle with Mirai and Kun, they are doing better than they did the first time. He’s more present, she’s less angry, etc.
But it’s also a comforting nostalgia trip to a certain extent. A comforting movie about childhood as seen from the distance of being an adult. Kun doesn’t quite understand what precisely is going on – it’s just another series of adventures for him, but will hit an emotional core for adults.
The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda – who has been building up quite a resume in recent years. His last film was The Boy and the Beast – not a favorite of mine – another fantasy involving a young boy. This is a much better film – it is visually stunning, especially the climatic train station sequence. It is a gentle, warm film – perhaps a little too laid back, too episodic, for its own good. But it is a quietly moving film – and one that takes on some serious question – and even if offers little more than comforting answers, well, sometimes you want comforting answers.

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