After 10 years, Hayao Miyazaki is back with another masterpiece, The Boy and the Heron. Partially autobiographical, the film follows a boy named Mahito who loses his mother in a fire and struggles settling into his new home with his father and his new wife. While adjusting to life in the countryside, Mahito is pestered by a mysterious heron who claims his mother is alive, and then he finds a hidden tower with a strange connection to his family.
A master of building extraordinary worlds, Miyazaki takes us along with Mahito as he journeys into a realm somewhere between life and death, where there are parakeet soldiers and mobs of pelicans and floating bubble creatures. It’s visually stunning, heartfelt, and existential. Paired with a beautiful score by Joe Hisaishi, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best films of the year.
The Japanese version is voiced by actors like Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, and Ko Shibasaki. The English language cast includes Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Gemma Chan, Willem Dafoe, Karen Fukuhara, Robert Pattinson, and Florence Pugh. (A new Miyazaki film should be enough reason to watch; Pattinson’s Heron voice is just the cherry on top.)
Right now, the only way to watch The Boy and the Heron is in theaters. The film originally opened in Japan this summer—and made records at the box office despite having no marketing. It made its international premiere at Toronto International Film Festival this fall and continued to show at other festivals throughout the season, amassing glowing reviews at each stop.
It’s no question that fans who can’t flock to a theater will be patiently waiting to be able to watch the film at home, but plans for digital rentals or purchases have not been announced yet, and neither has streaming. In the meantime, a collection of Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki films are available to stream on Max, thanks to a historic deal inked in 2019.