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  /  Film & TV   /  London Film Festival 2023: ‘The Boy And The Heron’ 君たちはどう生きるか Review
The boy and the heron 2023

London Film Festival 2023: ‘The Boy And The Heron’ 君たちはどう生きるか Review

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Talya Kimura, Kô Shibasaki, Yoshino Kimura. 

English Dub: Luca Padovan, Robert Pattinson, Christian Bale, Florence Pugh, Gemma Chan

Where To Watch: Coming to UK Cinemas 26th December

Our Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Miyazaki is something of a legend in the film industry. No, as a matter of fact he is a legend. So when he announced that The Boy And The Heron (Japanese title: How Do You Live?) would be his final film, anticipation ballooned beyond the usual fanfare that an upcoming Studio Ghibli release ignites. However, this is Miyazaki. Anyone familiar with the hilariously dry, somewhat world-weary filmmaker will know that this is not the first time he’s proposed retirement; in fact, Miyazaki announced plans to retire following the release of his cult classic Spirited Away all the way back in 2001. So, it came as little shock when putting The Boy And The Heron out into the world, at 82 years old, Miyazaki rescinded his statement and, as of now, is continuing to work on yet another film. Yet this did not quell any of the anticipation for The Boy And The Heron and with little in the way of plot released before arriving at LFF, the film had to shoulder the weight of these expectations. 

Oh, and how it soars despite it. The Boy And The Heron tells the story of Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki) who, during the Pacific War, is moved to a new town by his father and stumbles upon an abandoned tower which leads to a magical world, chaperoned, of course, by the titular heron. On his adventure, Mahito battles with grief and responsibility, and the film delicately and, in that traditional Studio Ghibli way, artfully demonstrates his reconciliation with coming of age in a world marked by tragedy and conflict. It’s a film that paints maturation into empathy when the world is pushing you to grow selfish, and it does so with an earnest hopefulness and optimism that rings eternally true. Miyazaki has been outspoken about his faith in children to challenge the call to conflict of previous generations and their power to create a world without it and this film sings as the culmination of his belief. Though perhaps not the most accessible of Miyazaki’s oeuvre, The Boy And The Heron is an essential testament from one of the greatest filmmakers the world has had the fortune to experience.