Add “Ponyo” to my growing list of questionable movie choices that are apt to bring a tear to my eye. Not that it’s bad—on the contrary, Hayao Miyazaki’s retelling of “The Little Mermaid” in a rural, magical Japanese setting is completely wonderful. Lovely art, sharp characterizations, and that enchanting but occasionally menacing spirit that hangs over everything.
What almost—almost!—drew the tears from my eyes was not the underage love story between 5-year-old Sosuke and Ponyo, the fish who wants to become a real girl. No, it was the backdrop of the story. Sosuke lives with his parents at the top of a cliff in a small coastal Japanese town. But really, his dad is away most of the time, captaining some kind of large fishing or shipping vessel, and his mom, when she’s not excited at the prospect of the dad’s return, is angry and depressed. Early on, the dad is supposed to come home but calls in to say he’s got another job that’ll take him to sea for a few more days. Wow is the mom angry: “BUG OFF BUG OFF BUG OFF” is the message she send him via morse-code flashing lights. She even drinks a can of beer—in a kid’s movie!
This is all done in a fairly straightforward and nonmelodramatic way, and I wouldn’t have almost—almost!—cried except that, um, you know, my family is often in a similar situation. And except that last night, and for the next few nights, the situation is reversed: Jean is on a business trip to Los Angeles, and I’m home alone with Sasha. It’s necessary, and it’s not too big an inconvenience, but still: It sucks.
So, boo-hoo, boo-hoo, poor me. It’s morning, though, and I’m all better now.