Mary And The Witch’s Flower tells a simple magical story with enchanting and soothing animation, but its predictable plot might not impress older viewers. It’s a light and sweet film to pass an afternoon, but you won’t be learning any lasting life lessons here.
A collaboration between The Secret World of Arrietty's director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Howl’s Moving Castle’s producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, Mary And The Witch’s Flower follows a young girl Mary who finds a mysterious flower, the titular ‘Witch’s Flower’, which gives her magical powers.
As she’s swept away from sleepy Redmanor Village to the magical school of Endor College, she’s unaware of a plot by the nefarious headmistress Madam Mumblechook and devious Doctor Dee to steal the powerful artefact. Confronted with dangerous beings and hidden threats behind every corner of the vast school grounds, Mary must escape from this evil land as the secret of the Witch’s Flower is gradually revealed.
The Japanese animated film immerses us in an unusual kaleidoscopic fantasy world of magic through vivid imagery of traditional occult elements. However, it’s disappointing to note that nothing truly stands out as exceptional or very new when compared to similar recent offerings.
With a setting and characters that will remind you of Studio Ghibli’s previous works, Mary And The Witch’s Flower provides a sense of reassuring familiarity. Add to that the innocence of the juvenile protagonists, and the entire movie-watching experience feels like a journey back to our childhoods. The relaxing memories of watching a long beautiful cartoon episode that speaks of nothing too abstract or heavy is exactly how this film feels.
On the flip side, its simplicity might irritate more mature audience members who may find some of the clues - like the trail of breadcrumbs in Hansel and Gretel - too much in plain sight. With a simplistic plot and a straight forward message, the climax also fails to surprise and the slightly unsatisfying resolution happens too easily and is over too soon.
Yet, maybe we shouldn’t blame Mary And The Witch’s Flower for its simplicity, as it is based on the 1971 children’s fantasy The Little Broomstick, which was probably not written for an adult audience. So regardless of its unsophisticated story arc, the movie is a lovely, pure, and visually-pleasing work of art that’s good for a relaxing weekend, especially for families looking for something to share.
Edited by Jamie Lam