Okay well, the first movie I watched this year just set an impossibly high standard for the rest of the year.
The only thing I could think of to say about it in the immediate aftermath of watching Kiki’s Delivery Service is that it’s a perfect movie. And that still feels somehow insufficient? Like I was describing something more mundane or commonplace than this? Like I just didn’t have the words to convey how this movie moved me?
This is definitely my favorite Ghibli movie, and I think I can say with some degree of confidence that nothing is going to top it. I’ve seen 13 of their 23 films, so I do have a ways to go, but it’s just impossible to imagine me liking anything more. This is such a perfect storm of what I look for in a movie and just… an amazingly good movie on top of that.
This is maybe the best and most accurate depiction of magic I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I’m struggling to think of one that’s even particularly close? Kiki’s practice isn’t as visually flashy as you often get in fictional depictions of magic. You get the impression that she’s able to tap into something that’s present in everything, which is exactly how these things actually work. Magic itself is much bigger than anything an individual Witch might do with it. It’s present in the everyday rhythms of life. It is harmony and balance, yet it is wild and untamable.
This entire movie feels like it’s bathed in magic. Characters who aren’t doing anything to intentionally practice magic seem to gather it around themselves instinctively. You see it in their kindness towards each other. You see it retreat when they’re nasty or violent.
This is an incredibly empathetic movie. Everyone is so godsdamned wholesome to each other. Kiki’s biggest problem is what looks an awful lot like a bout of depression. This leads to her temporarily losing her connection with magic. And that makes sense, too. It’s hard to be in harmony with the world when we are not in harmony with ourselves. And she restores her connection when a friend drags her out to her cabin in the middle of woods, which, yeah! Connecting with nature is incredibly grounding, both for mood stabilization and connecting with magic.
Also, her friend relating Kiki’s experiences with magic to her own experiences with artistic inspiration are very yes! Magic is bigger than us, but our relationship with magic is intensely personal. It’s not something that can be forced. When it’s working it’s incredible and when it’s not you have to be patient! Seriously, this movie really gets it.
This is also a beautiful movie. I know that’s not exactly a rarity for Ghibli movies, but it really is worth mentioning that the art really is noticeably gorgeous. And the scenery is so vibrant. The sky, the oceans, the town, the forest. It contributes to how magical everything feels, but it also just makes it damn pleasant to watch.
So, yeah, my two most recent first watches (this and The Matrix Resurrections) are both in the running for my favorite movie of all time? I’m gonna force myself to have a cooling off period on both of them before putting them any higher than the last two spots in my top 5, but seriously, wow.
This is everything I look for in a movie, and then some.
This is a perfect movie.