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Foreign Film Friday: Mirai review - a magically animated child’s view of life and family

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Verdict: a beautiful and touching story for the whole family.

Mamoru Hosada is no stranger to the world of fantastical storytelling with films such as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) and Wolf Children (2012) under his belt. His latest film, Mirai (also known as Mirai of the Future) follows the story of Kun. Previously an only child, after his initial excitement at the arrival of his younger sister, Mirai, he struggles to accept her into his life. It is a simple enough story, transformed by the magic of anime into a charming multi-faceted experience of life and family, shown through a child’s eyes.

The film begins shortly before Kun’s parents arrive home after Mirai’s birth and Kun is excited to welcome a new addition to the family: someone to whom he can read scary stories and play trains with. However, after realising that babies aren’t nearly as fun as he might have expected, Kun’s excitement at his sister’s arrival quickly turns to distaste and irritation at the baby who now commands the majority of his parents’ attention.

Following a tantrum, one of many, Kun storms into the garden of the family’s gorgeously designed, modernist home and encounters a completely different world. Through this garden, Kun stumbles across many different worlds in different time periods where he encounters versions of many of the important presences in his life, including the family dog, his mother as a child, his great-grandfather in his youth, and an older version of the sister he repeatedly says he hates. Each encounter teaches Kun about life and helps him on his journey to, not just accept, but love his new baby sister.

A visual masterpiece, the transitions of the scenes are seamless and genuinely do feel magical: each world has its own artistic feel completely in tune with its inhabitants. The film skilfully blends various animation styles in a way that nothing seems awkwardly out of place, despite their intense differences. Kun’s foray into a bullet train station is a notable moment, combining realism with surrealism and offering a surprisingly menacing feel during a distressing moment for Kun.

The score is beautiful (if not seeming, at times, a bit emotionally manipulative) full of gorgeous, light piano accompaniment.

Though the film sounds as though it may particularly target towards children, adults are catered to as well; with snapshots of Kun’s parents as they deal with another child. While children will be enamoured with Kun’s adventures through his garden, the older audience members will nod knowingly along with the persistent aspects of life: change and exhaustion, jealousy and disagreement, happiness and love. It is truly a film that everyone can take something from, whether they are young or old, a parent or not.

Mirai opens in cinemas nationwide on November 2nd, but you can catch it earlier at the BFI London Film Festival

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