DIR: Mamoru Hosoda | 35mm | Japan | 2012 | 117:00 mins | Japanese with English subtitles
Saturday, Nov 10th 8:15pm | The Royal
In Wolf Children, a daughter narrates the story of her unusual family history, revealing a tale fraught with the themes of familial loyalty and self-realization. The tale begins with how her mother Hana and her father met and fell in love. Nineteen-year-old Hana notices a tall, long-haired student forget his attendance card one day, and when she chases him down the hall, he tells her that he’s not officially registered anyway. She befriends him, saving him seats in class and sneaking him into the university library. As the two become closer, he finally admits to her that he’s actually a descendent of the Japanese wolf, and can morph into human or wolf when he chooses.
By this point, because the film has shown the delicate friendship developing between the two, the swift transition of friendship into loveship didn’t seem unlikely, but I was slightly surprised by the profiles of Hana and the wolf kissing in the half-light of her bedroom. However, the montage of the couple living, eating, and eventually welcoming their first child charms the viewer into accepting the unlikely premise behind their relationship.
After the birth of their second child, Ame, the father suddenly disappears. Hana, saddled with a child on each side of her, goes out into the rain to find him, and she sees a garbage collection crew picking up a dead wolf from a sewage tunnel. Devastated by his death, she continues to care for the children as they discover their genetic inheritances.
Hana eventually decides to move away from the city and closer to the mountains to give Yuki, now a highly-spirited child, and Ame, her more timid brother, a closer connection to the wildness of their lycan heritage. They move into a small farming village where the inhabitants slowly begins to help and accept the young family into the community. The real tensions of the film begin as Yuki and Ame go off to school and are confronted with deciding between their social, human side or their lone wolf natures.
There are some gratuitous scenes of the wolf children running through the woods, and these tend to be the least interesting parts of the film, but overall Wolf Children is a beautiful and, yes, heart-wrenching, film that makes even cynical adults care about the characters and their stories.
Phuong Nguyen writes from Toronto, ON, where she received an MA in English Literature, qualifying her to write this bio.