Are there movies that you want to see just because they make you feel good?
This is that movie. It’s fun and lighthearted. It lights up the screen and the viewer simultaneously with its fun atmosphere and great colors. Tonally, this movie also shines. I would say that this would be the definition of a family movie just by the way that everything plays out. From the opening scene to the final climax of the movie, My Neighbor Totoro steals our hearts and warms our souls. The score is up there with that of Boogie Nights by the way that it really sets the tone.
*Spoilers down below*
Although the story is wonderful and fulfilling, I’d like to mainly focus on the character’s imagination and how it plays a role in the film. At first glance, it’s fairly apparent that Totoro and the forest spirits are figments of the girl’s imaginations. But, is this a problem? I say, no. I think it’s actually where the film shines against other movies that try to use this same technique. By showing the girls’ dreams, we can see what they really want and how it’s played out in their minds.
A few examples of this type of moment is in the way they find the “soot monsters” and the rest of the forest spirits as well as when they see them. These two kids are just that kids. So while the audience is let into the situation with their mom more and more, the audience starts to wonder how the girls both feel about it. When they first encounter the soot monsters, they chase after them immediately. They’re a little scared but more curious than anything else. To me, that’s them wanting to have companionship. It’s even more evident to me as Satsuki finds a friend before school has even started. These girls miss them mom, but the most valuable thing they miss from her is a friend. So the next step is to imagine a bigger “creature” as they both want their mom to help guide them as they move into this new house. Obviously their dad is helping them get through it, but it explains why he’s never around when the girls see Totoro. Another time that this metaphor works is at the bus stop. The girls are patiently waiting for their dad as his train was delayed and they sat around at the bus stop for hours waiting for him. It was at this moment that Totoro appeared. He gave them comfort as the bus was arriving and disappeared into the night right before their dad came home. Finally, he appeared when both their parents were at the hospital and Satsuki couldn’t find Mei. He helped guide Satsuki when that’s normally a job for a parent to find the lost child. With Totoro’s help, he guided them to see what their parents were seeing and made them feel all right.
I do think that Totoro and his friends were imaginary because I think that the boy rode the corn to the hospital for the girls. They were just “present” during the whole interaction despite being so far away. It is a family bond that kept them close together. I also think that their experience flying around at night felt more like a dream and when they awoke in the morning, the seeds were sprouting and not a full blown tree. Their dad also didn’t react to a mega tree forming while he was working on his assignments. Lastly, when Mei first finds Totoro, she is asleep in the center of a clearing. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is who believes in these creatures. Obviously Mei does. But it will take a few more watches to know if Satsuki does or if she’s playing along. Her actions were borderline believing in my opinion. I think their parents do because they know that it’s keeping their spirits high during this difficult time.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It told a very real and comforting story about imagination and love. I was enthralled in every second and will probably watch this several more times in the coming months. I would highly recommend this film to anyone.