Dir: Mamoru Hosoda
Starring: Haru Kuroki Gen Hoshino (John Cho and Rebecca Hall in English dub)
(Japan, PG, 1hr 38mins)
Mirai is a beautifully-animated and well-told tale, if occasionally a little slight and wispy. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, one of Japanese animation’s biggest directors not named Hayao Miyazaki, Hosoda has previously helmed cult classic like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children (as well as a trilogy of Digimon movies, but I suppose we all gotta pay the bills).
Here, we view the world through the perspective of Kun, a toddler who gets a baby sister in the form of the eponymous Mirai (which means future in Japanese). As with many toddlers, initial curiosity soon gives way to jealousy that the attention in the house is being so hogged by the new arrival. Kun stumbles upon a portal (perhaps into his own imagination) in the garden, where he meets various figures from past and future – a teenage Mirai, his mother as a child, his great-grandfather as a young man. Each encounter brings him further out of his childhood spoilt-ness and a step towards independence.
It’s a nice narrative trick that gives the film a clear structure to follow, whilst also allowing for some stunning flights of fancy on the part of the animators – and the animation here is superb. The design of the house in which most of Mirai is set is brilliant too, justified by the fact that the father character is an architect who designed the house himself. A gradual multi-layered construction, it allows the children of the house a far bigger view of things than either parents are allowed. There are also plentiful sweet touches to the mundane strains and frustrations of family life with two young children; feeding time, mess, existential tiredness.
Ultimately, whilst Mirai is quite a sweet, funny and touching paean to the smaller hardships of growing up and parenting, it is slight and lacks a serious emotional impact. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the fault lies in the story here – but maybe that same narrative structure gives the film a slightly episodic quality that means the eventual emotional climax is not quite as impactful as it hopes to be. All the same, this is a fine film from a consummate craftsman of the medium
words Fedor Tot
Out now in cinemas