Movies About Childhood
2 Nov 2013
My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1988, Japanese, 86 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (8.2), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful.

Summary: A lovely movie by Hayao Miyazaki! A father moves with his two young daughters (eight and four) into a house in the woods. The kids spend time with a granny, explore the forest, meet Totoro and eagerly await their mother who is sick in a hospital. Throughout the movie, they are playing around and laughing. There are moments of fear and anxiety too but they are part of routine life. I loved the fearsome looking but benign "Cat Bus". Overall, the more I think of the movie, the happier I feel :)

In both Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki blends real life with fantasy very smoothly. They made me think: what is real and what is imaginary in the experience of a child? Everything is magic!

Roger Ebert's rave review is insightful. He contrasts American anime with Japanese anime. Worth reading.

My Neighbor Totoro is among the 50 Films You Should See By the Age of 14, a list made by British Film Institute in 2005 after consulting 70 experts.


Children of Heaven (Bacheha-Ye Aseman)

Director: Majid Majidi (1997, Persian, 89 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (82%), IMDB (8.4), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: NetFlix.

Similar movies: childhood.

Summary: A lovely movie whose memories make me smile :) The main characters are a young boy Ali and his little sister Zahra who live in a poor part of Tehran. Ali loses Zahra's shoes. The two of them decide to keep it a secret and a series of events unfolds. The storyline is heartwarming.

The movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1998, losing to the Italian film Life is Beautiful.


Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo No Takkyûbin)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1989, Japanese, 103 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (25%), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful.

Summary: A heartwarming movie by Hayao Miyazaki. There are no villains. Everybody is kind hearted. The story is centered around Kiki, a witch with a broom. She also has a companion: a black cat named Jiji.

At age 13, tradition demands that Kiki become independent and get settled in another town. She is excited! She flies afar to a town that looks like San Francisco. Soon, she is accepted by good people and given a room to stay in a bakery shop. There she takes up the job of package delivery. Her job is well suited for her; she leverages her flying skills! Package delivery leads to adventures and encounters with interesting people. She also starts developing a friendship with Tombo, a teenage boy who likes her.

As the movie progresses, Kiki's spirit goes through highs and lows. At one point, when her spirit is sagging, she loses her power to fly! Her skills are revived through help by Ursula, an artist friend who happily lives in the woods by herself. Ursula explains her that ups and downs are normal. She mentions techniques that she employs to revive herself when she is feeling low and cannot paint any more. The final scene shows a recharged Kiki saving Tombo in mid-air in a dramatic closing sequence.

On the whole, a lovely movie. Highly recommended for kids.


Whisper of the Heart (Mimi Wo Sumaseba)

Director: Yoshifumi Kondo (1995, Japanese, 111 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (90%), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful, romance.

Summary: Whisper of the Heart is a lovely movie about two teenage students falling in love with each other. Screenplay is by the famous Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. No symbolism, no message. Simple, lighthearted movie that made me smile. If you loved somebody and your feelings were reciprocated, then this movie will remind you of those special, magic moments :)


My Life As A Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund)

Director: Lasse Hallström (1985, Swedish, 101 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: childhood, death, family, illness, intense.

Summary: A beautiful movie! A 12-year old boy named Ingemar is the main character. He is faced with his mother's illness, puberty, relocation to another town and separation from his dog, all at once. In the midst of turbulence, a panorama of joyful, sorrowful and comic moments unfolds in Ingemar's life. Lasse Hallström has handled the storyline well. The movie is delicate, touching and authentic.

Character development is pretty good. Other than the main characters, there are queer townsfolk which add spice. Landscape shots of Swedish homes in snow are gorgeous. The movie won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Foreign Film in 1987.

An ongoing thread in the movie is innocent exploration of sexuality at young age. The scenes in the movie may surprise Indian audiences who have to realize that sexuality is handled very differently in Sweden. For example, an effective sex education program is in place since 1956. Kids who grow up in USA and relocate to Sweden are shocked when they attend these classes. At the same time, they find them rewarding because Sweden's program is more in touch with reality than the equivalent US program. Straight Facts about the Birds and Bees in US News, 2007. RFSU is the organization behind Sweden's sex education programs.



Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour (2013, Arabic, 98 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (99%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia.

Similar movies: childhood, city life, family.

Summary: A cute movie with a serious theme. Great acting by everybody. The social conditions around a 10-year old girl are portrayed, as seen from her eyes. Music was pretty good. Worth watching.


Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (2001, Japanese, 125 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (97%), IMDB (8.6), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: anime, childhood.

Summary: Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Anime Movie in 2002. I was struck by the imagination that crafted the story and the myriad ghostly creatures in it. The cutest character is a walking lamppost that appears for less than a minute :) Miyazaki made this movie specifically for 10-year old girls. Some Western parents find it frightening because ten year old Chihiro is transported into the spirit world when she's awake (not dreaming) and her parents turn into pigs. Roger Ebert wrote a glowing review.

The closing song of the movie is beautiful: Itsumo Nando Demo. Lyrics (with English translation): here. The song has an official English version.

Itsumo Nando Demo by Youmi Kimura

Somewhere, a voice calls, in the depths of my heart.
May I always be dreaming, the dreams that move my heart.

So many tears of sadness, uncountable through and through.
I know on the other side of them, I'll find you.

Everytime we fall down to the ground, we look up to the blue sky above.
We wake to its blueness, as for the first time.

Though the road is long and lonely and the end far away, out of sight.
I can with these two arms embrace the light.

As I bid farewell my heart stops, in tenderness I feel
My silent empty body begins to listen to what is real.

The wonder of living, the wonder of dying,
The wind, town, and flowers, we all dance one unity.

Somewhere a voice calls in the depths of my heart.
"Leep dreaming your dreams, don't ever let them part".

Why speak of all your sadness or of life's painfull woes?
Instead, let the same lips sing a gentle song for you.

The whispering voice, we never want to forget,
in each passing memory always there to guide you.

When a miror has been broken, shattered pieces scattered on the ground,
Glimpses of new life, reflected all around.

Window of beginning, stillness, new light of the dawn,
Let my silent, empty body be filled and reborn.

No need to search outside, nor sail across the sea
Cause here shining inside me, it's right here inside me.

I've found a brightness, it's always with me.


The Color of Paradise (Rang-E Khoda)

Director: Majid Majidi (2000, Persian, 90 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (87%), IMDB (8.0), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: childhood, family.

Summary: A beautiful movie that explores why things are the way they are - what did people do wrong to merit their circumstances? Of course, there are no answers to these questions, only a sense of wonder and acceptance.

The main characters are a blind boy Mohammed and his dad Hashem, who is a semi-skilled laborer. For the last five years, Hashem has been having a tough time raising a family of three after his wife died. Raising a blind child has added to the challenge. So Hashem makes a trip to his village with Mohammed to get married again. Watch the movie to see how events unfold.

One of the best scenes is Mohammed's arrival in his village, where his 10-year old sisters are living with their grandmom. The squeals and the smiles of his sisters are heartwarming.

Bird sounds are prominent throughout the movie. During my hikes, I had started paying attention to bird sounds. Earlier this year, at a gas station, I remember telling a friend about the myriad birds that live among us in the trees. They wake up early morning and start chirping merrily

Mohammed's exploration of beauty around him through his fingers is nicely presented. Landscape shots and scenes in forests are gorgeous.

A detailed review by FilmSufi (read only after watching the movie).


Cinema Paradiso

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore (1988, Italian, 155 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (90%), IMDB (8.5), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: NetFlix.

Similar movies: childhood.

Summary: Cinema Paradiso is a lovely movie showcasing the relationship between Salvatore and Alfredo over several decades. Salvatore is a fatherless, naughty, young boy who loves watching movies. Alfredo is a kind hearted man who operates movie equipment in a theater. Over time, they get deeply bonded with each other.

A significant part of the movie is Salvatore's first love: a gorgeous young girl named Elena. The girl quickly rejects him, so Salvatore starts standing outside her home every evening.. day after day, in sun or rain, on weekdays, holidays.. waiting.. week after week after week.. quietly.. patiently.. always hopeful.. :)

The last scene made me smile - it's pure joy :)

On the whole, the movie reminded me of a poem by Kahlil Gibran called On Children.


Wolf Children (Okami Kodomo No Ame To Yuki)

Director: Mamoru Hosoda (2012, Japanese, 117 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (8.0), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, intense.

Summary: A sentimental, saddish movie. A woman falls in love with a "wolf man" who dies soon after their kids are born. So she singlehandedly raises her two "wolf children" who transform into wolves at will. When her kids are toddlers, she goes to great extremes to hide them from human eyes while continuing to live in a city. At age five, the kids become self aware and start inter-mingling with humans, carefully hiding their extraordinary abilities. By age twelve, one kid prefers to blend into humans. The other decides to stand out and live the life of a lone wolf.

Overall, the movie shows the struggles of a single mom, and the process of her kids figuring out their true calling as they grow up. I found the plot strange (somewhat repulsive too) but creative. Character development is awesome and the challenges faced by each individual are quite "real". A bit long and with a few melodramatic scenes that could have been deleted. Overall, the movie is artistic and worth watching.



Director: Jillian Schlesinger (2014, English, 82 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (82%), IMDB (7.6), Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: adventure, childhood, true story.

Summary: A delightful movie! The story of Laura Decker, a 15-year old girl who sailed around the world in a sailboat by herself. Almost all scenes were shot by her using her camcorder. So it feels like a documentary. The movie shows how Laura changes over the course of two years and the challenges she faced. Wikipedia has an article: List of youth solo sailing circumnavigations.



Director: Sandeep Sawant (2004, Marathi, 107 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (40%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube, YouTube.

Similar movies: childhood, depressing, illness.

Summary: Yet to write.


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