A Film4-backed short directed by Kibwe Tavares and starrnig Daniel Kaluuya
Two girls encounter spirits and creatures in the forest near their new home. A beloved animated film from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki was still an up-and-coming talent when he wrote and directed My Neighbour Totoro in 1988. His second feature for the groundbreaking Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki hoped the film would build upon the success of his earlier offerings, the pre-Ghibli Nausicaa And The Valley Of The Wind and the Studio's debut production Laputa: Castle In The Sky.
As it turned out, My Neighbour Totoro did not set the Japanese box office alight, but just as audiences eventually came around to Citizen Kane and It's A Wonderful Life, over time the public learned to love this movie. Indeed, it is now considered one of Miyazaki's greatest works, and is hailed as one of the key films that introduced Japanese animation to the English-speaking world.
My Neighbour Totoro is the story of two little girls, Satsuki and Mei (Noriko Hidaka and Chika Sakamoto respectively, or, in the English dub, real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning), who travel to the country with their father. Since their new home, a weather-beaten old house, lies near to a forest, it isn't long before the sisters are exploring the clearings and tree-lined lanes. They soon discover that, despite living out in the sticks, there are plenty of neighbours closeby who have made the woodland their home - sprites, spirits and troll-like Totoros who seem to have leapt out of fantasy and fable.
The girls' adventures with their new friends are by turns enchanting and whimsical, displaying Miyazaki's unrivalled skill at transporting children's unfettered imagination, keen curiosity and sense of wonder onto the big screen. Under Miyazaki's direction, even the everyday is transformed into something fantastical, and simple chores like cleaning a dusty house and waiting for the bus in the rain are made into unforgettable moments of pure magic.
However, My Neighbour Totoro steps back from the precipice of tweeness by rooting the film in small-scale, humanistic themes of coming of age and potential loss. The ongoing illness of Satsuki and Mei's mother, as well as the older child's responsibility for her younger sister, form a compelling backbone for a tale that could easily have drifted off on its own flights of fancy.
One of the finest family films ever made. My Neighbour Totoro's mixture of spectacular animation, endearing characters and solid, universal themes single it out as a true Ghibli classic, and a contender for Miyazaki's best work overall.
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