Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms movie review: the tragedy of the immortal

part of my Directed by Women series
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Maquia When the Promised Flower Blooms green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Epic yet intimate, this is a visually gorgeous and emotionally lush fantasy drama about love and hope set in a violent but beautifully realized invented world.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): desperately seeking movies about women
I’m “biast” (con): not a huge fan of anime
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female director, female screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

Renowned and prolific Japanese anime TV writer Mari Okada makes a visually gorgeous and emotionally lush feature directorial debut with the enrapturing Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms. She’s written the script, too, of course, for this labor-of-love passion project, and here creates a beautifully realized fantasy world that echoes with the familiar — Tolkien and steampunk are major touchstones — while also carving out a fresh and uniquely lovely vision.

Maquia (the voice of Manaka Iwami) is a near immortal, already centuries old but appearing to be a teenager, when her people, the peaceful Iorph, are attacked by a jealous king seeking the secret to their longevity. Driven into the larger world, she rescues an orphaned mortal infant, another victim of the Iorphs’ invaders, and adopts him as her child. The Iorph warn against falling in romantic love with mortals they will long outlive… but what about falling in maternal love? And yes, that presents similar dangers — and joys — to the immortal soul.

Maquia must make a new home with mortals... which requires dyeing her Iorph blonde hair in order to hide among them.
Maquia must make a new home with mortals… which requires dyeing her Iorph blonde hair in order to hide among them.

Epic yet intimate, Maquia weaves a delicate tapestry — much like the breathtaking textiles the Iorph use to tell their own long life stories — of the relationship between adoptive mother and her son, Erial (the voice of Miyu Irino: Spirited Away), as he grows to manhood while she remains unchanged. Okada captures in her stunning animation the seasons of life and of nature: in luminous sunlight, in the joy of animals, in fields of grains and grasses that are anime-stylized yet touchably real, even in human-made houses in which you feel the warmth of their stones, and in massive machines in which you sense the power of the engineering that brings them to artificial life.

Infused with a gentleness that is unexpected in a story that driven by violence and bigotry — for the Iorph inspire fear as well as envy — this is a touching story about the power of love and hope in the face of despair, and of kindness and humanity as the only way to plough through pain.

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Wed, Jun 27, 2018 5:22pm

Wow, this sounds fantastic – it’s always cool to see a hard working writer get/earn a chance to direct her own work, and the plot gives me warm, tingly Sailing to Byzantium/Elric vibes too. I’ll definitely check this one out at the theater. Thanks for the heads up!

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  amanohyo
Fri, Jul 20, 2018 8:44pm

This opens in the US today. Well, like, on one screen in NYC and one in LA.

David C-D
David C-D
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Jul 23, 2018 8:55pm

It is showing today and tomorrow at the Studio Movie Grill, which luckily has a theater near Philadelphia. I get to see it for my birthday!!