GFF18 Review – Mary and the Witch’s Flower UK Premiere

Mary and the Witch’s Flower [rating=3]

Studio Pinoc, a company made up of ex-Ghibli employees, had their first feature film ‘Mary and The Witch’s Flower’ hold it’s UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival this past weekend.

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was There, The Secret World of Arrietty) and starring Ruby Barnhill (The BFG) in it’s english language dub, ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is based on the Mary Stewart novel ‘The Little Broomstick’, a story following a young girl who discovers a magical flower that gives power to what was thought to be an ordinary broomstick, and carries her off to a magical school for witches and warlocks.

In an action-packed opening sequence of a rebel witch escaping the school with a bag of incredibly powerful seeds, she discards them in far-off woods only to be found years later by the titular Mary. Now bloomed, the flowers grant her unexpected magical abilities that she has no idea how to control or get rid of. When her great-aunt’s old house broom whisks her away to the magical Endor College in the clouds, Mary has to decide – does she want to become a powerful witch or go back to being her normal self?

There’s much to admire about Studio Pinoc’s first film, particularly on the film’s technical side with it’s wonderful score and beautiful animation, but that’s about where it ends for me. I didn’t feel entirely invested in the story being told and felt that the characters could be explored a little more to give the story a much needed emotional edge. After finding out who the villains in the story are and what they are trying to do, it’s never actually explained why they’re doing it which just left me feeling puzzled and detached from the situation. While the film is stunningly beautiful and coupled with some enthralling action scenes, it really needed something else in terms of how the story played out and it’s characters. While I understand the film isn’t here to break any new grounds or surpass previous Studio Ghibli entries, there could have been a few scenes stripped down to make way for character development over it’s two-hour runtime. I left wishing we could have seen more of the rebel witch from the prologue instead.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ hits the mark with it’s disappointing characters and their lack of development, but it’s stunning visuals and score are certainly worth the watch alone. Shaky first steps for Studio Pinoc, but I’m hopeful that’s all it is.

Fantasy, Anime | Japan, 2018 | PG | 4th May 2018 (UK) | Altitude Film Entertainment | Dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi | Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent