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The Independent Critic

Haru Kuroki, Moka Kamishiraishi, Gen Hoshino, Koji Yakusho, Kumiko Aso, Mitsuo Yoshihara, Yoshiko Miyazaki, John Cho, Rebecca Hall, Crispin Freeman
Mamoru Hosoda
Rated PG
98 Mins.

 "Mirai" Should Be Remembered Come Awards Season 
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It seems appropriate to have watched acclaimed director Mamoru Hosoda's latest animated feature Mirai as I prepare myself for Thanksgiving weekend. A lovely film about the ties that bring families together and make us who we are, Mirai may very well be the master stroke in Hosoda's rather remarkable career that has included such films as Wolf Children and Summer Wars. 

In the film, four-year-old Kun meets his new baby sister, whose name Mirai means "future," and has his entire world turned upside down by the experience. The beautiful Mirai quickly wins the hearts of everyone in Kun's family, but once his mother returns to work Kun's father struggles to manage the household's needs as young Kun becomes increasingly jealous of this strange new sibling. One day, in a fit of jealousy, Kun storms out of the house and into the family's garden where he encounters strange strange guests from the past and future including a teenage Mirai who embarks on a special adventure with Kun. Traveling through time and space, Kun and Mirai discover their family's remarkable story. 

Indie US distributor GKIDS has a growing reputation as one of the country's premiere distributors of quality animated features - especially those from outside the United States. The distributor has already snagged 10 Academy Award nominations and it wouldn't be surprising to see Mirai make it number eleven. An official selection at Cannes Directors' Fortnight, Mirai arrive in U.S. theaters on November 29th just in time for awards season and both the dubbed and subtitled versions of the film with screen in Indy at the AMC Castleton Square. 

While the story behind Mirai may sound rather fundamental, few directors are as adept as Hosoda at transformative filmmaking that seamlessly transports the viewer into a truly fantastic realm. The story itself is quite realistic, yet the world that Hosoda creates is a remarkable one that flows magnificently and avoids any unnecessary, mood-disrupting exposition. Instead, Mirai just sort of bounces along with a natural pacing that immerses you in its fantasy world. 

While some may fault a modest predictability within Hosoda's tale as Kun enters the enclosed garden and begins to meet a variety of characters, including the teenaged Mirai and his mother when she was just his age among others, it's the way that Hosoda weaves his magic here that makes the film easily his most emotionally resonant and beautifully animated film to date. The characters that Hosoda creates here are far more complex and layered than we usually see in such a film - frequently hilarious yet never less than authentic even as family dynamics occasionally wreak havoc and Kun eventually gains empathy for Mirai and for his incredibly human yet incredibly endearing parents. 

Mirai is also one of those rare foreign animated features to be equally transformative in both its dubbed and subtitled versions. While there's always something to be gained from watching a film in its original language, the use of such familiar voices as John Cho and Rebecca Hall in the dubbed versions lends the film an appropriate warmth and humor and largely maintains the spirit and effectiveness of the original film. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 

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