Ponyo on the Cliff’ movie review
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
In this column I review movies that are hugely popular in the Western world—ones which I haven’t seen before. This is a fresh and unbiased take on those classic films, without the rose-coloured glasses of childhood nostalgia influencing my perspective.
This Studio Ghibli film directed by Hayao Miyazaki is incredibly sweet. It features pastel colours, cute ocean critters, and the most adorable five-year-olds. The movie begins with Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) saving a goldfish trapped in the sea who is named Ponyo (Noah Cyrus). They immediately form a close bond, much to the dismay of Ponyo’s father Fujimoto (Liam Neeson).
I don’t fully comprehend Fujimoto’s role in the movie. At the beginning he is seen doing magic to “keep the sea at balance,” but later on he is seen cursing all humans for the pollution done to the ocean. Later on, Ponyo asked Sosuke if his dad is a “great evil wizard,” implying that Fujimoto is just that.
Through this, I believed Fujimoto hated humans, yet at the end he seemed perfectly fine with letting Ponyo become human and live with her new human family.
These plot holes may be true—or they may be a result of a message being lost in translation, or even just a regular Ghibli charm. No townsfolk were worried about letting two five-year-old children go on a boating mission to find Sosuke’s mom in the wide expanse of the sea. In any other film this would clearly be outrageous, but Miyazaki implores viewers to suspend their disbelief just a bit further than most.
The tension builds up to create great anxiety, yet it’s never too much if you’re a frequent Ghibli viewer. I’ve only seen about six films from the studio, but it’s very apparent that no movie will ever cross the line into a scary realm. Knowing that, the viewing experience becomes much more peaceful and wholesome, even as you’re watching Sosuke’s mom Lisa (Tina Fey) nearly drive her car over a cliff in every driving scene.
Lisa is an especially fun and entertaining character. She’s boisterous and wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also undeniably the funniest. In one of my favourite scenes, Sosuke’s father Koichi (Matt Damon) cancels coming home for dinner (this happens frequently to Lisa’s dismay) and decides to stay out at sea to continue working. Sosuke and Lisa use a light signal to send Morse code messages back and forth with Koichi. Koichi apologizes to Lisa and sends an “I love you,” to which Lisa gets up off the floor and aggressively sends back “Baka baka baka baka baka baka baka baka”—the Japanese insult for foolish and stupid.
As can be expected in any Ghibli film, the score and art are beautiful. The scenery and little things remind you to find beauty in ordinary things in life. I don’t think this is Miyazaki’s best… but it’s definitely a must watch.