Capturing the essence of childhood without being condescending nor trite is Totoro‘s great triumph. Every scene pops with imaginative creatures or genuine emotion; whether that be excitement, fright or wonderment, and the film speaks at least as strongly, if not even more so, to adults as it does kids. A true family film, Totoro will charm and delight children but will also awaken that dormant inner child within us all and give us a welcome reminder of when, if we were lucky, we could look at the world with innocent eyes, finding magic and adventure in every shadow of a house and at the foot of every tree.
When two young girls and their father move into a new home in the country they find that the house is just ramshackled enough as to be exciting rather than scary, and may well be old and abandoned enough so as to be full of magic and adventure. It’s not long before the children are finding hugely charming creatures in and around their home such as the totoros who are part ethereal forest spirits, part cuddly imaginary friends. It’s not the plot that’s really important here, the film just drifts from one beautifully observed moment to the next and it is impossible not to be swept along with it.
This is one of those rare films were I don’t have a real legitimate criticism to make, to try and find one would just be doing the film a disservice. The voice acting is excellent, the visuals are consistently stunning, and the narrative of the film is as excellent at depicting the innocence of childhood as it is some of the film’s darker elements. I know of no other film which so succinctly and legitimately recreates the inquisitive and wonderfully imaginative world of childhood, complete with all of its fears and joys, dreams and brutal realities. I shall leave you with this quote from Ebert who I think sums up this movie better than most:
‘Here is a children’s film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.’ – Roger Ebert
What is the film’s greatest strength? The joyous and incredibly honest representation of childhood.
Its greatest weakness? No legitimate criticism here.
Would I see it again? Absolutely, I have seen Totoro several times already and it is endlessly watchable!
Release your thoughts out into the comment box below!