Expert storytelling from Anime director Mamoru Hosoda
Although this Japanese animated film tells a story about people who can turn into wolves, it would be a mistake to assume that it is just for kids. Directed and co-written by The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’s Mamoru Hosoda, Wolf Children is a complex, mature drama, weaving themes of love, grief and the pains of growing up into its fantastical premise. It’s not for everyone; the leisurely pacing stretches every second of its two-hour running time, and Hosoda’s determinedly straight-faced treatment of a ridiculous central idea (a wolf and a human making babies? Ewww!) may be a leap of imagination too far for some. But it is beautifully realised, with animation and imagery that’s second to none, and for the patient viewer it offers emotional depth on a par with Pixar’s finest.
Tightly focused on just three characters – Yuki and Ame, the children of the title, and their mother Hana - Hosoda’s story still feels sprawling in scope, following about 12 years of their lives in detail. Narrated by Yuki, the film begins with the story of how Hana met and fell in love with the childrens’ father, a mysterious man/wolf changeling, and the tragedy of his death soon after Yuki and Ame were born. Left with two little children prone to transforming into wolves when they get angry, and no knowledge of how to raise them, Hana moves from the city to the countryside armed with little more than a hopeful attitude.
The concept of children as wolves is a fruitful metaphor for Hosoda, suggesting the wild reckless nature of little kids as well as a more threatening pubescent brooding and violence. This is expert visual storytelling, dwelling on the emotion of particular moments with powerful and occasionally devastating effect.
Showing Sun 10 Feb, GFT, Glasgow as part of Glasgow Youth Film Festival.