Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service begins with our title character staring up at the clouds as they slowly morph and whisk by in a flurry of wind. In a way, it’s the perfect introduction to a film that focuses on the shifting changes of adolescence. Kiki is a 13-year-old witch, and her tale is set forth into motion when she leaves her home for the city in search of a new job. There, she finds success in her delivery, but she also faces multiple growing pains and new experiences along the way. Like those opening, cloud-laced vistas, Kiki’s journey is constantly in metamorphosis. But isn’t that true for all of us?

Once again, Miyazaki’s work here blends a hybrid of surface fantasy and secret realism, a staple of the filmmaker’s career. From My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away, we’re not only given worlds of magic, mysticism and whimsy, but we’re buried deep into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. It’s a natural gift, really, and Kiki’s Delivery Service is no exception.

The film takes us on a wondrous adventure, following Kiki as she builds her career (imagine doing this at 13) as a delivery witch, transporting items like gifts across the city in an expectedly speedy fashion. But this is only the beginning, as Miyazaki also explores Kiki’s friendships within her new home—a friendly store owner, a persistent boy who has a crush on her, a loving old woman—as well as the struggles she experiences on the job. But the film’s true turning point is when Kiki loses her witch powers and battles hard to gain them back. In some ways it’s one of the most triumphant allegoric films about writer’s block next to Barton Fink.

Kiki’s loss of her powers is the same as the deficit we often feel when we lose interest in the things we love. Maybe you’re a musician who can’t write a song, or a writer who can’t pen their latest story. Maybe you’ve been depressed. Maybe a life event has caused you to be defeated in your passionate pursuits. What ultimately makes Kiki’s Delivery Service so compelling is not the fact that its protagonist can fly through the sky on the broom, but rather how, despite her talents, she eventually becomes as grounded as the rest of us. And Miyazaki’s tale examines how we might get that desire back; how to regain an appetite once again for the things that previously fed your life’s momentum.

And that’s life. Sometimes we lose, but when we fight, we can often rise like a phoenix from the damages. Like the clouds that open the film, we’re constantly moving. Like the remarkable, painterly skylines and outstretched horizons on display during Kiki’s flying sequences, the world around us is massive. It’s our goal to find our place within it and make tiny changes to the world around us as we navigate our crazy existence. Kiki does it through kindness, her delivery service a beacon of humanity. What’s yours?

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