Film Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an enchanting fantasy adventure. The film combines beautiful animation and an entertaining story.

Mary is a young girl living in the countryside with her great aunt. With friends around, one day Mary follows a mysterious cat which leads her to a broomstick and an unusual looking flower…

Based on the story The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart, Mary and the Witch’s Flower combines the charm of Studio Ponoc (founded by Studio Ghibli alums including Yoshiaki Nishimura) and a quintessentially English setting. And indeed, even the fantasy seems to combine the folklore of Britain with the imagination of the Japanese filmmakers. 

The narrative at first seems to be something of a coming of age tale for the protagonist. Mary is a young girl in a new place, who needs to settle into her new life. However, the film develops into something more, thanks to good storytelling. The protagonist is developed well as the film progresses.

Whilst the focus is on Mary, other characters are however developed sufficiently for their roles. Mary and the Witch’s Flower provides contrasting archetypes, yet the villains are not quite as clear cut as they first appear. It is certainly a positive thing that the antagonists do not fully adhere to archetypes. Although the film does follow an expected path, it is by no means totally predictable. The film depicts magic in an interesting light. There is the element of power and control which appears in other fantasy films of this ilk, but also a question of the ethics of its use.

In the English-dubbed version, Ruby Barnhill is well cast as the voice of Mary. She is ably assisted by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent. The animation is as lush as one would expect from the studio. Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a great movie for both children and adults. The film is engaging and enchanting.

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