Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wolf Children

The Boy said that this film, Wolf Children was the first to make him cry since Machine Gun Preacher, although he amended that later to say he hadn't actually cried so much as misted up a bit.

Mamoru Hosoda is sometimes tapped as the spiritual successor of Hayao Miyazaki, of whom both kids are big fans, so The Flower accompanied us to see this moving and strangely serious tale of a woman who struggles with raising her children, who happen to be able to turn into wolves.

One of my big gripes these days is how ill-considered almost everything fantastic is, and probably a lot of things that aren't fantastic, come to think of it. My love of the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres, for example, is soured by the slipshod way writers hand it.

To name two prominent, popular exmaples, both "The Walking Dead" and "Falling Skies" feature genuine nothing's-ever-gonna-be-the-same scenarios where survival is predicated on being able to attack aggressively, right alongside parents who refuse to teach their children to use weapons because they "deserve a childhood".

Both shows do that exact same thing. The whole "deserve a childhood" thing set sail along with the 99% of the population destroyed by zombies/aliens/virus/whatever, Sparky.

I've watched enough of those and other recent doomsday scenarios to make me believe that there will be no Hollywood writers surviving the Apocalypse.

So, why bring it up in this context? Well, this is just a very thoughtful exercise on what it would be like to raise children who could turn into wolves. Erm, in a society where that is not the norm. Which, apparently, includes Japan. (You never know with those guys.)

Toddler and adolescent disobedience takes on new dimensions, as does the bitter-sweetness of children growing into adults and finding their own ways into the world.

Much like many Miyazaki films, there's no antagonist. In this movie, not even obliquely. The circumstance requires the mother, who isn't a wolf-person and doesn't know anything about them, really, to take defensive action, and ultimately learn to be very self-sufficient in a rural community.

There's still conflict, of the sort that tends to come up in real life (or at least real life plus the sorts that would come with wolf children), and the movie is brisk, engaging and moving. It's almost as if the introduction of this wild, fantastic element allows the filmmaker to condense human experience and focus like a laser on the sort of fleeting, temporary nature of we all endure in this veil of tears.


Who knew you could do that?

Kind of amusingly, to me, is that at least one Japanese critic referred to the movie as being on rails, and full of stereotypes to boot. I, on the other hand, have not seen more than four or five movies about wolf children this year, so it all seemed pretty fresh to me.

I was actually somewhat surprised that the kids were so enthusiastic about this movie, because to my eyes it was more about parenting than about being a child. But there it is. Maybe they related to being wolves.

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