A young woman is cursed with an old body, and must seek
help from an insecure wizard atop a giant walking castle.
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Starring Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer,
Billy Crystal, Lauren Bacall, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner
Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones
Oscar Nominations - Best Animated Film
I've never seen anything quite like Howl's Moving Castle. It's a bizarre story about heart, love, and what it means to be powerful. Much like Spirited Away, it's unique in its storytelling. I enjoyed the film immensely. It weaves together an intricate tale of magic and family during a time of war, utilizing an amazing voice cast (in the English dub) to explore the rawest emotions of these multi-dimensional characters. It's an incredible journey that we as the audience get to partake in with these characters, and by the end, everyone, including you, are better for it.
When young, timid Sophie is cursed to be old by the wicked Witch of the Wastes, she embarks on a journey to find a way to break the curse. She is led to the enigmatic, insecure wizard Howl, who resides in a massive walking castle. Since the curse keeps her from talking about the curse, she becomes Howl's cleaning lady and quickly strikes up a friendship with the wizard, as well as his young assistant Markl and captive fire demon Calcifer. These characters become as close as family as Sophie learns how to love herself and appreciate life to the fullest. I've noticed a recurring theme in Miyazaki's work. He likes to use fantastical story elements as metaphors for real-life struggles, like depression, insecurity, and war. In Howl's Moving Castle, he uses all three, and the result is breathtaking.
Howl's Moving Castle goes the extra mile to entertain, shock, and charm audiences. Miyazaki is one of the most talented storytellers working today, and this film is easily one of his best. Every one of his film is a work of art that stands apart from other animated movies. Every frame could be cut out of the film and hung on the wall like a painting. I've nothing but respect and admiration for the man and his work, which just keeps impressing me more and more.