Movie Review: Whisper of the Heart

Tonight, I watched Whisper of the Heart, which is another Studio Ghibli movie that I picked up a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t had the chance to watch until tonight.

I think this movie was a good example of what it means to follow your dreams and to work towards a future that both inspires you and brings you passion. This is also one of those times when the back of the box is actually at least partially helpful:

“A chance encounter with a mysterious cat sends Shizuku, a quiet schoolgirl, on a quest for her true talent. Challenged by Seiji, a boy determined to follow his dreams, and enchanted by The Baron, a magical cat figurine who helps her listen to the whispers of her heart, Shizuku embarks on curious adventures beyond the boundaries of her imagination.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this movie at first, because it starts out in the typical fashion of teenage angst with crushes and school work and tests and things that I kind of feel too old for right now. It was right along the lines of “this girl gets a love letter from this guy but she likes a different guy who likes a different girl” and I rolled my eyes and hoped the story would move beyond that teenage stage of random, incoherent feelings.

And it did. Shizuku is a girl I can relate to in a lot of different ways. She spends a lot of her time in the library, reading, and checking out books. She is also very driven. She says that it’s her goal to read twenty books and she works tirelessly to achieve this goal. In fact, she kind of neglects some of her school work in order to achieve her personal, book-reading goal. She goes to school early so she can find books before the library opens. Books and fairy tales mean a lot more to her than most of the real things happening in her life.

Shizuku’s first couple meetings with Seiji go the exact opposite direction you think these sort of things should go. He’s a jerk and she’s angry at him for being a jerk. The two don’t appear to get along at all. But as they get to know each other, Seiji shares his dream of becoming a professional violin maker with her and they do a spontaneous jam session which I actually liked a lot in the movie. Seiji is so passionate about being a professional violin maker that he works tirelessly to achieve this goal. And that really goes a long ways to show the difference between people who walk the path they are told they must walk because it is the standard path and what it means to live your dreams.

Shizuku’s sister went to school the proper way and she only has part-time jobs and doesn’t really know what she’s going to do. She eventually gets a part-time job as a test writer and moves into her own apartment, making her own way in the world, but I got the feeling that it was a job she didn’t have any particular passion for and that makes me sad. But she did all the things she was told she should and it’s mostly starting to work out for her.

Meanwhile, Shizuku struggles to find something that she’s passionate about – a dream for her that’s worth fighting for. Everyone she knows tells her that she’s a talented writer and she doesn’t believe any of them, or if she does believe them, it never occurs to her that she should be a writer. Eventually, she decides to write a novel, filled with fantasy, adventure, and magic. Her parents grudgingly encourage her to follow her dreams. She puts off doing her actual homework and she stops paying attention in school so she can focus solely on writing this novel for two months straight. When she finishes her draft, she realizes that it still needs so much more work and she cries because she feels like she’ll never be good enough.

But that’s exactly the point – nothing worth doing is going to be effortless and flawless on the first try. Anything worth doing, any DREAM worth having, is worth working for. Shizuku realizes this as the movie progresses. She wants to write and be a writer, but there’s still a lot she has left to learn. So she makes the choice to stay in school and to work on her writing at the same time. I think this is a perfect balance between following your dreams and understanding that your dreams require work and knowledge and that you won’t get things completely correct on the first go.

Overall, I think this is a great movie. I liked the music and I really liked the idea of following your dreams and understanding that your dreams are going to require some work. But it also focused a lot on love and partnership, which still isn’t high on my list of things I enjoy being faced with in my free time. That brings the rating down from a low four to a high three on my rating scale. It was also a very beautifully done movie and I really like this style of animation.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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