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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wolf Children, an English-language version of an animated Japanese fable (the specific style is often referred to as anime), has serious themes at its heart. Issues include single parenting, loss of a loved one, and making significant life choices. A young mother and her kids face danger from the forces of nature in several scenes; two struggles between children result in some mild injuries, and blood is drawn. There is one tender love scene, which presumably leads to off-camera sex. A woman is shown with a baby at her breast. A few mild curse words are audible ("damn" and "hell"), and a pregnant woman and a sick child each vomit. Lyrical, beautiful, and occasionally both suspenseful and sad, the film offers families with older kids and teens an opportunity to share a meaningful, emotionally powerful experience.
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What's the story?
Hana is a bright, happy college student living on her own when she meets a young man with a devastating secret in WOLF CHILDREN. Only part human, the man she loves is the last remaining honcho wolf (thought to be extinct for more than a hundred years). Hana accepts the Wolf Man's occasional "transformation," and their wondrous romance produces two adorable children, Yuki and Ame. Soon, however, while Ame is still an infant, tragedy intervenes and Hana faces life and parenting on her own.
Once Hana realizes that Yuki and Ame are truly their father's children and hover between their human forms and their wild animal selves, she faces the truth and tries to keep them as safe, happy, and loved as possible. Moving far from the city, with the spirit of the Wolf Man to guide her, Hana uses every resource at hand to provide a full life for her children as they grow and try to make their way. But, for a family in which the kids are not fully human, growing up inevitably becomes a challenge that must be met with resolve, empathy, grace, and, ultimately, great sacrifice.
Is it any good?
From the moment the lyrical music begins and the buoyant Hana is introduced, this movie has you in its thrall. Alternately romantic, funny, poignant, suspenseful, and sad, the film and its characters Hana, Yuki, and Ame can't help but touch the heart. The visuals (a perfect combination of hand drawing and computer animation) are awe-inspiring: Scenes in the wild are vivid and exciting; the half-human, half-wolf children are charming; and the Japanese settings are gently beautiful. Touching upon some of life's most soulful themes -- losing loved ones, growing apart, and surviving in both the wild and in the midst of community -- the film is not appropriate for most young children, but for those who are either old or mature enough (and for the grown-ups who are lucky enough to watch with them), it is highly recommended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the filmmakers' attitude toward nature, represented here by wolves. How did the movie enrich your understanding of wild creatures and the worlds in which they live?
Look up "fable," "fairy tale," "myth," and "legend." Which best characterizes Wolf Children? Why?
How did you feel about Ame's ultimate decision? How did the filmmakers prepare you, as well as Hana and Yuki, for Ame's choice?
- On DVD or streaming: November 26, 2013
- Cast: Colleen Clinkenbeard, Lara Woodhull, Alison Viktorin
- Director: Mamoru Hosoda
- Studio: Funimation
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for thematic elements, some violence, brief sensuality and language
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