Fantastic Fest Review: MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER Will Charm You

The annoyed cat and spunky broom steal the show.

It’s easy to hope for magic when the world isn’t going your way. Who doesn’t dream about snapping their fingers and watching all of the bad in the world fade away? Hiroshima Yonebayashi’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower (adapted from the children’s book The Little Broomstick) takes a look at what that might be like.

The story revolves around Mary, a young girl desperate to be helpful and to find a cure for her boredom in her town full of adults. Eventually she meets another child her age, but she and the young boy, Peter, don’t get on as hoped. After a few less-than-pleasant interactions, Mary and Peter find each other insufferable. Unfortunately, they’ll have to work together to get themselves out of the trouble they’ve caused with some magical and cranky folks.

Mary and the Witch's Flower shines in many ways, but its secondary and tertiary characters are some of its strongest elements. The cranky Tib and spunky Little Broom will steal your hearts and fill that space next to your Calcifer and Totoro plushies perfectly. She's not as cute as Tib, or as stubborn as Little Broom, but Mary's Great Aunt also deserves some character recognition. Much of the movie is like a warm blanket that you can wrap yourself up in, and a good portion of that can be attributed to the love the Great Aunt and the maid display for their rambunctious and accident-prone charge. 

While the plot is certainly that of a film aimed at children, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a bright spectacle of color and sound that will play well for all ages. The hopeful and uplifting score perfectly conveys the tone of the movie, tugging at your heart strings at all of the right moments and pairing perfectly with the vivid and fun colors. Studio Ponoc brought a film that looks, tastes and feels like Studio Ghibli. While there may be an argument for going on and making your own way as a new production company, it was lovely to see all of the call-backs to older Miyazaki films.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the perfect comfort movie for Miyazaki lovers that are missing the way his movies made them feel. The stakes are a bit lower than your standard Studio Ghibli fare, but the moral presented in the end is enough to make up for the lack of world-ending consequences in the conflict.