A Letter to Momo

 
Offbeat but lovely subtitled story deals with child's grief.
  • Review Date: August 29, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie deals with parent-child relationships in a way that could be distressing for younger kids -- Momo feels terrible that her last interaction with her father was telling him to never come back -- but ultimately there's comforting closure.

Positive role models

Momo's mom is hardworking and determined to give Momo a good, normal life after her father is killed (not shown). Momo is independent and -- although she's rebellious -- she risks herself for a good reason. But she also runs away during a typhoon. The imps are a little inappropriate (one passes gas a lot), they steal, and they break rules in order to help Momo. Momo’s mother slaps her in a moment of frustration. A group of kids jumps off a bridge to go swimming. When Momo tries to jump but hesitates, an imp pushes her. Momo is home alone most of the time.

Violence

Younger kids might find the imps (or goblins) a little scary. They first appear as shadows following Momo and then as fully drawn characters. They often come up and scare her. One of them pushes her off of a platform into the water (to help her get over her fear of jumping in). Momo and the imps are chased by a wild boar. Momo's mother has an asthma attack and needs a doctor, but there's a typhoon raging outside, and the doctor is on another island. An army of imps comes to her rescue, making a shield as she races over an unfinished bridge.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

No strong language, but the imps are little rude. 

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that A Letter to Momo is an anime film about an 11-year-old girl who moves from Tokyo to a small Japanese island with her mother after her father is killed (it's talked about but not shown). It's in Japanese with English subtitles, which means it's a better fit for kids who are already strong readers (unless you're up for reading it all aloud!). Plus, younger kids might find the imps that live in Momo's attic a little scary: They first appear as shadows and then fully drawn figures that only Momo can see. There's a harrowing scene at the end of the movie involving an army of imps that forms a shield over Momo when she races to get a doctor for her asthmatic mother during a typhoon. 

What's the story?

After the death of her father, 11-year-old Momo (voiced by Karen Miyama) and her mother move from Tokyo to the small island of Shio, Japan. There, Momo encounters three strange shadows that live in the attic. They transform into imps (goblins) visiting from "above." She traps them in this world, and they soon become mischievous playmates. Meanwhile, Momo is tormented by her last encounter with her father and what he meant to write in his last letter to her after the words "Dear Momo." Can these strange creatures help her discover what her father meant to tell her?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

A LETTER TO MOMO is a beautifully drawn animated film from Japan with English subtitles. In her new island home, Momo -- an independent, melancholy girl who's grieving both the death of her father and the life she knew in Tokyo -- finds a picture book with drawings of strange creatures, which aren't like anything you'd see in a mainstream American animated film. One looks like a goblin, another like a man or fairy, and the third like a wrestler with gold teeth and a permanent smile.

Fans of director Hiroyuki Okiura's Jin-Roh: Wolf Brigade will find something very different here. Momo is a quiet, funny film about loss and grief. Although it's set in modern times, the kids don't have cell phones or technology. They swim and ride bikes and help their parents. There's no pop culture, just old-fashioned living. Younger kids may have a hard time with the movie's slower pace and the subtitles, but it gets better and better until the final exciting scene, which includes an army of magical creatures and a typhoon. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how A Letter to Momo compares to more mainstream animated movies. Aside from the subtitles, what sets it apart? Do you prefer this style of movie or the Hollywood fare?

  • Momo’s last interaction with her father was a poor one, and she regrets not being nicer to him during their last encounter. Do you ever think about the consequences of how you treat people?

  • Momo doesn’t tell her mother about the creatures she has befriended. Kids: Would you keep such a secret from your parents?

  • Kids: How is Momo’s life in Japan different than yours? Are there similarities? 

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 23, 2014
DVD release date:October 21, 2014
Cast:Karen Miyama, Yuka, Daizaburo Arakawa
Director:Hiroyuki Okiura
Studio:GKIDS
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of A Letter to Momo was written by

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