Steve Bullin

There is an epidemic among writers that has existed as long as stories have been told. And while Hollywood writers have had bright moments fighting this epidemic there are only a handful of times a film has triumphed against this challenge. That sisyphean task is being a child again. The reason films geared towards children are normally held on such low standards is because so many writers do not know how to handle children. While trying to write for a child character writers write what they think children are like, how they think a child would react; they write things they think kids would like and on a level they think children would appreciate, because hey, they’re just kids.

So often you see these lazy kid-friendly films: simple stories with simple characters and simple plots, because, for whatever reason, as kids they are devoid of depth. Because as adults we know kids don’t have stress, we know they don’t have real problems. As you can imagine, if you can’t share the same perspective as a character then you can’t accurately write for that character, and with that you can’t portray characters or a story that comes across as believable. This is where Studio Ghibli comes in. Writer/director Hayao Miyazaki has built his career making films that touch our heart and inspire that child like wonder in the world we tend to lose in our everyday lives, and Spirited Away is his masterpiece.

Spirited Away is a down the rabbit hole story about a young girl named Chihiro overcoming the obstacles of a wondrous supernatural world to save her parents, her friends, and herself; while growing and becoming more sure of herself as an individual. Of course this story arch sounds like any handful of other kid friendly films that, while good films on their own merit, aren’t exactly must see material.  But like I mentioned before, this is where Studio Ghibli and good writing steps in. Throughout the film there are hundreds of these little animated moments and character interactions that make the characters real to us. And it’s all those little things that children do that we notice but don’t always think of, or just forget about, that remind us of childhood. It’s that characterization that makes us empathize so well with the character and transport us back in time, if only for a little while, to our own childhood feelings and fears. The audience is right there with Chihiro in all of her obstacles and emotions, we’re rooting for her to figure the way out of the mess she’s found herself in because we can imagine our younger selves in her shoes, reacting, in part, the same way she reacts. The beautiful animation, wonderful writing and voice acting, every little detail of this film makes it the wondrous emotional train ride that it is. A must see film for all ages, really if you or any young kids you know haven’t caught this flick yet, make that a holiday memory. Well that’s all for now, till next time, happy movie going everyone.

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