+ Recommended – PG, Animation, Adventure, Fantasy
If you’re looking for your next animation fix outside of Studio Ghibli, Studio Ponoc is making a name for themselves. Right out of the gates, they bring us Mary and the Witch’s Flower (original title: Meari to majo no hana) and it is a fantastic place to start. Based off Mary Stewart’s first published book for children, The Little Broomstick, our film focuses on Mary Smith, a young girl who has recently moved into the countryside to live with her great-aunt Charlotte. With no one her age around and an affinity to be more trouble than help, Mary follows Tib the cat into the woods and discovers a strange flower with the ability to grant magic powers. As a mysterious broomstick whisks her off to a fantastic place: Endor College- a school of magic. What secrets are the quirky professors hiding?
First, this movie is adorable. The animation is stunning and flows beautifully from scene to scene. The score is wonderfully timed and really serves its purpose on helping transition. I watched the English dubbed version, and the voice actors are absolutely spot on. Our main cast is centered around five people, Mary (Ruby Barnhill), Great-Aunt Charlotte (Lynda Baron), Peter (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), Madam Mumblechook (Kate Winslet), and Doctor Dee (Jim Broadbent). The cast works wonderfully together with the story to bring light to the two worlds, both magic and mundane.
While the film is engaging and pleasing to the eye, it definitely has some pitfalls. For worlds that should be filled with history and even people, they both feel rather empty. We are given some explanation for the little village being rather deserted since it is the end of summer break, but our magic world should definitely feel like it has more than three people in it. I wish we had more time to focus on the story rather than relying on the dazzling imagery. That’s not to say that the story is boring, there are definitely plot lines to follow and be interested by, there’s just more backstory that needed to be established. Speaking of backstory, this is not the film to look for inspiration through character development. The only character that really changes through the film is Mary herself. However, our scenes looking into Great-Aunt Charlotte’s past were breathtakingly fascinating and I wish we had more of them. I could watch a whole movie about her character alone.
That’s really it. It’s not that deep, guys. It’s a fun movie to watch and if you’re looking for a good film to throw on in the background, Mary and the Witch’s Flower would be a great one to choose.