Mary and the Witch's Flower

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Mary and the Witch's Flower Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Magical, intense adventure should delight tween Potter fans.
  • PG
  • 2018
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 7 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Intended to entertain rather than educate, but kids will pick up lessons about helping others and being brave.

Positive Messages

Conveys messages about believing in yourself, helping others, being courageous and generous, and not letting others demean your self-worth.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mary is kind, helpful, and brave. She refuses to leave Peter behind and summons her courage to face her fears. Peter is also brave, and both kids learn the value of friendship. Aunt Charlotte is loving and encouraging. Madam and Doctor Dee suffer consequences for their unethical experimentation.

Violence & Scariness

Frequent peril and conflict. Potentially frightening scenes: kidnapping and imprisonment, allusions to experiments, transfiguration, torture. The movie starts with an all-consuming fire that people are trying to flee. Robot-like creatures restrain Mary. Peter and Mary nearly fall off a dangerous ledge trying to escape. Child characters are captured and knocked out. Scary scene when the headmistress' magical goons pursue the kids. The headmistress can also control a magical liquid that can turn solid. Mary plunges to the ground on the little broom; it breaks, which makes her cry.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mary and the Witch's Flower is an anime adaptation of Mary Stewart's 1971 children's fantasy novel The Little Broomstick. It has frequent peril and potentially frightening chases, plus kidnapping, transformation of humans into animals, and other forms of magical aggression/violence. Fans of the Harry Potter series will see similar themes here -- the discovery of a previously unknown magical world, a prestigious magical school, a special child who must defeat evil, and more -- though all with a girl main character. Directed by veteran Studio Ghibli filmmaker Hiromasa Yonebayashi and made in the same style as some of his other films (When Marnie Was There, The Secret World of Arrietty), the fantasy has messages about believing in yourself, being courageous and generous, and more. The dubbed version includes voice performances by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKaangkies July 19, 2018

Not a little kid film. For older kids due persistent tension, peril, and terror

Beautifully painted scenes. Adequate adaptation and storytelling.
However I rate this for much older kids due to the following: Barely escaping a burning hous... Continue reading
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byRachel D. May 20, 2018

Far more disturbing than you think

There's no icon for "Too disturbing" or "Scary", but that's what I'd give this film. I dearly wanted to love this film as I e... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byCooltiger37 August 22, 2018

Studio Ponoc's debut is fine for kids, but not particulary interesting

There isn't too much in this movie that would frighten kids (the worst part being when you see the slightly unsettling results of Madam Mumblechook's... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 25, 2019

What's the story?

MARY AND THE WITCH'S FLOWER is based on prolific author Mary Stewart's 1971 fantasy book The Little Broomstick. It centers on Mary Smith (voiced by Ruby Barnhill), a young English girl who's staying with her Great Aunt Charlotte in the picturesque countryside for the summer. Mary is kind, but a bit clumsy -- and bored, with nothing exciting to do. Everything changes when she follows a cat into the woods, where a mysterious glowing flower and a little broomstick transport Mary to another realm, and she's assumed to be a new student at the prestigious magical school known as Endor College. It turns out that the glowing flower, called Fly-by-Night, only blooms once every seven years and has granted Mary temporary magical powers that she isn't ready to possess. At Endor College, headmistress Madam Mumblechook (Kate Winslet) mistakes Mary for an impressively advanced witch ... until the older woman discovers the truth and teams up with the school's resident mad scientist, Doctor Dee (Jim Broadbent), to steal the flower and take over the world.

Is it any good?

An ideal choice for Harry Potter and Studio Ghibli devotees, this animated fantasy adventure about a seemingly unremarkable English girl who enters a magical world is sweetly enchanting. Mary is a lovable klutz with bushy red hair and a penchant for making a mess of things. She's incredibly easy to root for, an adorably awkward and determined underdog who manages to summon the courage necessary to face considerable danger to rescue her new friend Peter (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Andy Serkis' son). The English voice ensemble is well cast, with Winslet seeming to relish her villainous role, Broadbent a perfect pick for the mad professor, and Barnhill an authentic choice for the starring role.

With Mary and the Witch's Flower, Studio Ponoc -- the Japanese animation studio founded by former Ghibli animators after that legendary company closed -- continues Ghibli's tradition of sweeping adventures starring young girls dealing with supernatural surroundings. The animators clearly love detailing the English countryside; it's rendered beautifully here, with the forest's greens, blues, and browns a lovely backdrop to Mary's earthbound action. The magical realm, of course, is otherworldly, with Endor a skyscraper-ish space-age creation. While the headmistress and her sidekick's nefarious plans aren't as well-laid-out as other magical villains' end games, the movie still conveys the intensity and urgency of Mary's mission to defeat Madam's evil intentions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why stories about magic are so compelling. What are your favorite magical/fantasy tales?

  • Who, if anyone, do you consider a role model in Mary and the Witch's Flower? What character strengths do they exhibit?

  • Discuss the violence in the movie. There are a few close calls and injured characters: Does fantasy-based violence impact you in the same fashion as realistic violence? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?

  • Were you familiar with the book on which the movie is based? Does the movie make you interested in reading the book?

  • Many have compared Mary's story to that of Harry Potter. Do you see similarities? How do you think Harry's story might have been different if J.K. Rowling had written her books with a female main character?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love magic

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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