'The Boy and the Heron' - New Beginnings

“The Boy and the Heron” via IMDb.

Winner of the 2024 Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture, Animated,” along with numerous other awards, Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” (GKIDS/Studio Ghibli) is the one to beat at this year’s Oscars. At least 30 minutes too long and deserving of its PG13 rating (not meant for young children!), “The Boy and the Heron” is, nevertheless, another unforgettable cinematic experience from writer/director Miyazaki.

Opening three years into World War II in Tokyo, on the night that young Mahito (voiced by Soma Santoki) loses his mother in a hospital fire, we follow him, and his widowed, factory owner father Shoichi (voiced by Takuya Kimora) to the countryside four years later. It’s there that Mahito’s life will forever change, beginning with his introduction to Natsuko (voiced by Yoshino Kimura), Shoichi’s pregnant new wife, who lives conveniently within walking distance of her husband’s newly built factory where they manufacture parts for fighter jets.

Looked after by a houseful of granny maids, including Kiriko (voiced by Kô Shibasaki), Eriko, and Aiko, while Natsuko deals with morning sickness, Mahito also becomes aware of a Grey Heron (voiced by Masaki Suda), who not only talks, but seems to know a great deal about him and his late mother. A self-inflicted wound on the side of his head keeps Mahito bedridden for a bit before his youthful curiosity leads him to an abandoned tower near the country house. Its proximity to a wooded area, as well as the visual effect of Mahito and Kiriko being pulled through the floor into an underground hellscape of the dead surrounded by a cursed sea, also gives the movie a vaguely “Stranger Things” feel with its alternative world reminiscent of the Netflix series’ Upside Down.

Real and imaginary characters, including gigantic killer parakeets and ravenous pelicans, intermingle with issues of bullying, bloodlines, and bizarre structures falling to Earth from outer space. Essentially a visually stunning story of a boy trying to get over the loss of his mother, it is often so trippy you might feel as if you are watching a movie called “The Boy and the Heroin.” The movie’s message about how the young have the power to make the world a more harmonious, bountiful, peaceful, and beautiful place, is one which we can all get behind. 

Rating: B


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