Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki may be celebrated as a fantasist, but he also excels at realistic portraits of early adolescence: in his screenplays for Whisper of the Heart (1995) and this 2011 period piece (directed by his son, Goro), he articulates precisely and sensitively what it's like to discover adult life. A teenage girl, living in a Tokyo suburb in the early 60s, befriends the bohemian boy who heads the humanities society at her high school, and Miyazaki defines her coming of age as a process of assuming new responsibilities in personal relationships and in civic life. The film maintains an optimistic tone without succumbing to nostalgia, and as always with Studio Ghibli, the company Miyazaki cofounded in the 80s, the hand-drawn animation is gorgeous.
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Producer: Tetsurô Sayama, Toshio Suzuki and Chizuru Takahashi
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Curtis, Bruce Dern, Jeff Dunham, Isabelle Fuhrman, Chris Noth, Raymond Ochoa, Emily Osment, Charlie Saxton and Alex Wolff