Mary and the Witch’s Flower Review
The fizzing new animation from former Studio Ghibli director Yonebayashi brings life to an English children’s classic.
Rating: 4 stars
When Mary (voiced by Hana Sugisaki/Ruby Barnhill) goes to stay with her great-aunt in the country she is ever so lonely. Not that she has any desire to befriend Peter, a local boy who teases her over her red hair. Boredom dissipates like a dream when Mary finds a magical flower and a broomstick that spirits her away to a school for witches. Can she use her newfound magical powers to restore natural order? And will she ever recover from the narrative’s fetishisation of red hair?
Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an adaptation of The Little Broomstick, an English children’s novel written by author Mary Stewart in 1971. Like Mary’s little broomstick, this animation leaps forth and takes you to a charming and magical place. No, it isn’t Hogwarts, though it slips in a polite nod to the Boy Who Lived. Nor is it Koriko port, though both Mary and the Witch’s Flower and Kiki’s Delivery Service share a trainee witch and an opinionated black cat. Both the English countryside and Endor magical college are lushly evoked with a reverence for nature and spirit that show warm respect for the Ghibli legacy.
A Ghibli classic is like going to film church, but you can still see the steeple with this springtime delight from Studio Ponoc. It brims with whimsy, imagination and sweeps of colour that fill the heart with joy.