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Saturday, 12 May 2018

Retro Review: Whisper Of The Heart (1995)

Whisper of the Heart
Genre: Animated Romantic Drama

Plot: A love story between a girl who loves reading books, and a boy who has previously checked out all the library books she chooses

'Careless Whisper'

Whisper of The Heart may strike a chord with so many people, yet for me, this is the first Ghibli movie that didn't do enough or offer more that was good. I had exceedingly high expectations that I'd clearly love it or enjoy it as much as My Neighbour Totoro and Castle In The Sky and it had well-developed and in-depth characters. Suffice to say, this was so not the case with Whisper of the Heart.

Challenged by a boy, Seiji, who is enchanted by The Baron: a mythical and magical humanoid feline, who helps Shizuku, a schoolgirl and devoted writer, she embarks on various adventures beyond the confines of her imagination. This plot sounds exciting, charming, encouraging and enticing, but come to my surprise, I was rather let down at how it didn't pan out the way that I'd anticipated. 

Like with many other Studio Ghibli movies, Whisper of the Heart remains grounded but with this effort, despite 1 or 2 scant fantasy elements, nothing else in the story, nor its characterizations engaged me to the fullest. 

The interludes never feel integrated into the story and the film didn't hold my attention span and is not compelling enough. I just had trouble connecting with the characters, especially the main character, Shizuku who is a writer, and most of what she said went over my head. She was also not very charming and the main story lacked that extra something to galvanise it further. Whisper of the Heart also revisits some of the themes that were in the likes of Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke such as self-doubt, insecurity and trying to find a meaning and sense of purpose. Unfortunately, unlike those movies, the way this particular film tackles each of these elements is rather underwhelming and thus, it doesn't make the desired impact. Instead, Whisper of the Heart functions as a romantic teen drama and the so-called internal, or be it external conflicts and struggles weren't cagey at all. The humanoid cat character was okay: it's such a shame he didn't turn up until much later on in the movie, but by then my luck and patience with it soon ran out & after that, I didn't take any more notice of him and Shizuku. 

I don't necessarily hate or dislike Whisper of the Heart, but having had high expectations, after being impressed by some of Ghibli's other offerings that I have reviewed and enjoyed, I'd thought this one would fall into the same bracket for me. It just didn't, and it doesn't. Going into this film, I expected not so much the fantasy element or an adventure film, but rather being able to latch onto the characters and going along with their journeys. Unfortunately, what I got was a film, or be it a coming-of-age romantic drama that whilst it might be okay for most people, as a film fan looking for an entertaining spectacle and characters I could resonate with and a resounding story that has something to say and offer in detail, Whisper of the Heart didn't deliver; the story and the characters just didn't have much depth and it felt like it was too bland, it was a bore.

When it gets to the fantasy elements with the talking cat, those scenes were all right, but the sense of adventure and discovery descends to almost nothing and it felt far too mundane. Nothing about the story flowed together and made a lot more sense and I eventually got fed up with it. Sitting through it, I was hoping that as I persisted with it, the story would get better and become more entertaining. 

It didn't and it wasn't. 

Final Verdict:

Overlong with a run-time of over 2 hours, the story flatters with a slow pacing that does itself no favours & it just didn't make any resounding impact, whatsoever. Whisper of the Heart is a teen romance that lacks the magic, charm and wonder that is found in My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and my favourite Ghibli movie so far, Castle In The Sky, this first non-Miyazaki directed effort turns out it is also one that will appeal to adolescent young girls more so than general audiences, as it lacks any universal appeal. 

I didn't know which was more grating: the stilted and un-engaging dialogue or the story was just so mind-numbingly sleep-inducing. No scratch that, it's both. 


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