Goosebumps start to form about 30 seconds into the latest from Japan’s Hayao Miyazaki (‘Spirited Away’, ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’). We’re drawn under the waves of the sea to a hidden enclave of neon-hued aqualife more vibrant, surreal and enchanting than any of the floating 3D whatsits in ‘Avatar’. Miyazaki offers a spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ and subverts his source to explore the main theme of all his films: the unpredictable psychologies of kids separated from their parents. The film charts a key episode in the life of bowl-cutted scamp, Sosuke, and the sweet bond he forms with Ponyo, a squeaky-voiced goldfish-turned-human girl. Among the film’s pleasures are yet another heartbreaking evocation of the trials of childhood (particularly the complexity of forming friendships), a non-patronising depiction of old age and a trenchant yet subtle reminder of looming ecological catastrophes. Who knows why it didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animation?
Friday February 12 2010