Mary & the Witch’s Flower

Year: 2017
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Cast (English dub): Ruby Barnhill, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Lynda Baron, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Morwenna Banks, Teresa Gallagher

Written by Sarah Buddery

Now reportedly ceasing to operate, the world is mourning the loss of Japanese animation giants, Studio Ghibli. But fear not anime fans, the spirit of Ghibli lives on, in the newly formed Studio Ponoc. Founded by former Studio Ghibli lead film producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, Studio Ponoc gained the support and allegiance of several Ghibli animators and directors, including the director of their debut movie, ‘Hiromasa Yonebayashi’.

‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ continues that Ghibli tradition of taking a classic (and usually English) children’s book, and giving it their own unique and fantastical spin. Whilst I would normally insist upon watching any anime film in the original language, the English dub of ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ that I saw was perfectly adequate; in fact the quintessentially British tones of national treasures such as Jim Broadbent, totally lend themselves to this type of story.

Whilst it might initially appear to be narratively similar to Ghibli’s classic ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, it does manage to be its own film, whilst still evoking the spirit of everything that makes these Ghibli classics stand out. ‘Mary’ actually owes more of a debt to ‘Harry Potter‘, and indeed the magical school that our protagonist finds herself in is very Hogwarts-esque; it surely can’t be coincidence that the students bear the colours of red, blue, yellow, or green either!

The story itself is quite simplistic, but then again it is for kids, and whilst the charming characters and easy-to-follow story will keep the attention of the kids, the beautiful animation will capture the older viewers as well. Voiced by none other than Spud from ‘Trainspotting’ (aka Ewen Bremner), the groundskeeper Mr Flanagan is an utter delight, and the only shame being that he doesn’t get enough screen-time.

Whilst this is enjoyable fare, it never feels like it has that timeless quality of some of the Ghibli greats. It does feel like a story that has been seen before, and its childlike innocence is pleasant enough not exactly world-changing.

Still, the animation is as stunning as you would expect, and the sense of magic and wonder permeates throughout. It also has adorable cats, and that is pretty much all you could want in any film. Regardless of the quality of the voice cast, watching these films with the English dub is utter sacrilege, so do seek out the Japanese language version for the most authentic and therefore enjoyable experience. ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is enjoyable animated fare, and a great start for the new dawn of Studio Ponoc. Will certainly be watching their future efforts with great interest!

Sarah’s Rating:

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Reel Women: May UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

At the start of each month we will be highlighting the films that will be released in UK cinemas that month, that are written and/or directed by women- a little feature we like to call ‘Reel Women’. As someone who’s taken part in the #52FilmsbyWomen for the past few years, I’ve started paying at least a little attention to who is writing and directing what I watch. It’s an enlightening experience and it’s a good way to watch films that I might not have normally have thought about and discover different filmmakers.

Now it’s time to look at May’s releases that are made by women. This month there are a whole host of genres including comedy, thriller, and documentary.

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4 May

I Feel Pretty
Directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein | Written by: Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein

Renee (Amy Schumer) struggles with insecurities about her body and her abilities, that is until she bangs her head and wakes up believing she’s the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet.

This is both Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein’s feature-length directorial debut but together they’ve written some rom-com classics like ‘Never Been Kissed’ and the romantic drama ‘The Vow’.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi Written by Riko Sakaguchi and Hiromasa Yonebayashi

The first film from new Japanese animation company, Studio Ponoc, ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ is about a young girl who discovers a world of magic and danger after she picks a flower that only blooms once every seven years.

Riko Sakaguchi has written multiple television series and the Oscar nominated Studio Ghibli film, ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’.

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11 May

How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell | Written by Philippa Goslett and John Cameron Mitchell

It’s 1977 in London and when Enn (Alex Sharp) and his friends stubble across a weird party they meet alien Zan (Elle Fanning) who becomes fascinated with them, Earth and everything punk. Philippa Goslett has written four feature films including ‘Holy Money’ and ‘Mary Magdalene’.

Life of the Party
Directed by Ben Falcone | Written by Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy

After her husband suddenly asks for a divorce, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) decides to join her teenage daughter (Molly Gordon) at college so she can complete her degree. Melissa McCarthy is a hilarious comedian who’s starred in so many great films like ‘The Heat’, ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Spy’. ‘Life of the Party’ is the third film she’s co-written with husband Ben Falcone after ‘The Boss’ and ‘Tammy’.

Raazi
Directed by Meghna Gulzar | Written by Meghna Gulzar and Bhavani Iyer

A thriller about Sehmat (Aalia Bhatt), a Kashmiri spy who is married to Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal), a Pakistani man during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, as she attempts to balance being a wife, mother and spy.

‘Raazi’ is Meghna Gulzar’s fourth feature film. Her previous film ‘Talvar’, is on Netflix and is well worth a watch. Bhavani Iyer has multiple writing credits to her name including the TV series ‘24: India’, the Indian remake of ‘24′.

Revenge
Directed by Coralie Fargeat | Written by Coralie Fargeat

Jen (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is enjoying a romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend, until his sleazy friends arrive for a hunting trip. When the situation abruptly turns to violence and Jen is left for dead, she prepares to take bloody revenge on them all.

Revenge is Coralie Fargeat’s debut feature film and she also was one of its editors.

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18 May

A Love That Never Dies
Directed by Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris

A documentary following Jimmy and Jane, who lost their son seven years previously, as they take a road trip across the USA to meet other grieving parents and to see how and why different people grieve.

This is Jane Harris’ first film.

Montparnasse Bienvenue
Directed by Léonor Serraille | Written by Clémence Carré, Bastien Daret and Léonor Serraille

Paula Simonian (Laetitia Dosch) is in her early-thirties, is broke and single. She’s spirited yet directionless as she struggles to get by in the lively Parisian metropolis; but if she can make it there, she’ll make it anywhere.

This is LĂ©onor Serraille’s first feature film and it won her the Golden Camera award, which is the award for best first feature film, at Cannes Film Festival last year. ‘Montparnasse Bienvenue’ has won 10 awards and been nominated for 14 more. ClĂ©mence CarrĂ© has previously worked with Serraille as she edited Serraille’s short film ‘Body’.

Submergence
Directed by Wim Wenders | Written by Erin Dignam

While captured by jihadist fighters, Scotsman James Moore (James McAvoy) remembers meeting scientist Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander) who is preparing to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor. Both in their own confinements, they remember their brief yet intense romance as they struggle with what lies ahead.

Erin Digman’s previous writing credit was ‘The Last Face’ starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem. Digman’s directorial and screenplay debut was ‘Denial’ which was nominated for the Grad Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival in 1990.

Cargo
Directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling | Written by Yolanda Ramke

Stranded in rural Australia after a violent pandemic, Andy (Martin Freeman) is a desperate father trying to find somewhere safe for his infant daughter. ‘Cargo’ is Yolanda Ramke’s first feature film and it is an adaptation of the short film of the same name she and Ben Howling made in 2013.

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25 May

Edie
Directed by Simon Hunter | Written by Elizabeth O’Halloran

After the death of her controlling husband, Edith Moore (Sheila Hancock) decides to attempt a lifelong ambition and climb a mountain in Scotland.

This is Elizabeth O’Halloran’s first screenplay.

The Breadwinner
Directed by Nora Twomey | Written by Anita Doron

After her father is thrown in jail, a young girl (Saara Chaudry) disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family.

‘The Breadwinner’ was nominated for Best Animated Feature at this years Oscars. Nora Twomey co-directed Cartoon Saloon’s first feature film ‘The Secret of Kells’. Anita Doran is a writer and director who has directed five feature films.

The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear
Directed by Amalie Næsby Fick, Jørgen Lerdam and Philip Einstein Lipski | Written by Bo Hr. Hansen

When friends Mitcho (Liva Elvira Magnussen) and Sebastian (Alfred Bjerre Larsen) find a message in a bottle, they go on an adventure inside a giant pear to find the missing mayor of their quaint town.

‘The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear’ is Amalie Næsby Fick’s first feature film.

Zama
Directed by Lucrecia Martel | Written by Lucrecia Martel

Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a Spanish officer of the seventeenth century waits in Paraguay for news of his transfer to Buenos Aires. When he hears a man called Vicuña Porto (Matheus Nachtergaele) is raping women and attacking villages, Zama decides to help those in need.

Lucrecia Martel has won numerous awards including Best Film and Best Director for ‘The Headless Woman’ at the Argentinean Academy Awards, and the Alfred Bauer Award at the Berlin International Film Festival for ‘La CiĂ©naga. Zama’ is Martel’s fifth feature film.

Ibiza
Directed by Alex Richanback | Written by Lauryn Kahn

Harper (Gillian Jacobs) and her two best friends fly to Spain to find a hot DJ.

Lauryn Kahn has written over a dozen short films and Ibiza is her first feature film. It’s also one of Netflix’s original movies.


Those are the fifteen films that are written and/or directed by women and are being released in the UK this month. Some of these are likely to have smaller releases than others, especially foreign language films like ‘Montparnasse Bienvenue’ and ‘Zama’, but there is a couple of Netflix Originals here too, so you can watch them in the comfort of your own home. By writing this post I have discovered many UK releases I was previously unaware of, and I hope some of these films might have piqued your interest too.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these films you if catch them this month! Be sure to leave us a message in the comments below, or tweet us at @JUMPCUT_ONLINE