Review of Okko’s Inn (2018)
Seen in 2019.
This is the feature-film cut.
An 11-/12-year-old girl loses her parents in a car crash. The ghost who saves her also assists her in her new role training to run her grandmother’s inn.
Children’s adventure. A big, loveable mess. Both the plot and the ontology are sprawling and inelegant, but the pathos is effective. I saw it GIFF 2019 and there were plenty of snivelling, crying adults trying to read the subtitles to their young children, who seemed less affected. GIFF put a 7-year age limit on the event; a little odd for a movie quoting Herodotus, Tolstoy and Steve Jobs (as part of a running gag), where the death of the main character’s parents is not just an off-screen formality but a big part of the later climax and emotional centre of the narrative. Speaking of the parents, the mother looks a lot like “Leiji” Matsumoto’s Maetel and his other mother figures.
The main problem is the composition for TV. Okko’s round eyes often fill about a fifth of the screen, which does not work in a feature film at an actual cinema. There’s also the long shopping sequence with Glory Suiryō, a character whose Japanese voice actor cannot pronounce the name “Glory”. I like the modern setting, an upgrade from Ghibli’s typically more severe nostalgia, but the shopping is distastefully celebrated. At least it’s realistic, unlike Welcome to the Space Show (2010)’s deeper banality. Curiously, Suiryō the psychic is portrayed simultaneously as a “wild” older-sister type needed for Okko’s personal maturation, and as something of a sexual object: drinking champagne on the terrace in her bra and panties, swimming and conversing naked in the hot spring. That combination would be unthinkable in a contemporary U.S. children’s film.