Liz And The Blue Bird


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Liz And The Blue Bird
"Naoko Yamada takes a gentle approach to all this turbulent emotion, and the animation is equally subtle, making a lot of use of light and space."

There's a point in early adolescence when worlds begin to blur. Fairy stories have long since ceased to be believed but their metaphoric relevance becomes apparent, bringing with it fresh perspectives on life. Meanwhile, developing sexual feelings complicate the familiar and intense emotions test the boundaries between friendship and romance. At this stage, art and music can have an overwhelming impact. Liz And The Blue Bird is a restrained tale about sensations that are anything but.

Mizore plays the oboe. Nozomi plays the flute. Together they're the brightest stars in the school band, but alone, Mizore doesn't feel she's much of anything. Nozomi is everything she wants to be: energetic, witty, confident and popular. When Nozomi takes an interest in her, she can barely believe that it's real. Even now that things are going well, she's afraid to express the extent of her feelings, afraid that somehow she will break the spell. Then additional pressures come to bear, because she realises - as does Nozomi - that it's time for them to start planning out the next stage of their education, which could mean separation.

Copy picture

What sparks this revelation is a piece of music based on a fairytale which shares the film's title - the story of the love that grows between a lonely girl and a beautiful blue bird. Throughout, its particular shade of blue is used to reference that particular kind of beauty that we only see when we're feeling something in our hearts, not just looking with our eyes. Is Nozomi the blue bird? It's not quite that simple. We frequently see both girls in their classrooms, looking out through the windows. Despite the special thing they've found in the present moment, it's implied that they both experience a desire to fly away.

Working with characters and a setting from Ayano Takeda's Sound! Euphonium manga, director Naoko Yamada takes a gentle approach to all this turbulent emotion, and the animation is equally subtle, making a lot of use of light and space. The fairytale features hand-feeding of animals that's straight out of Disney and there's a heavy dose of sentiment throughout, but this is very much in keeping with the nature of the tale and may well resonate with girls the same age. The biggest problem with the film is that it's slow; it could easily lose 20 minutes or even half an hour and be none the worse for it.

Older viewers may find that the sheer quantity of angst on display here makes for a trying watch, and may wish the girls would pull themselves together and have a proper talk, but the simple prettiness of the film is liable to win it many fans.

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2019
Share this with others on...
Liz And The Blue Bird packshot
Learning music inspired by the fairytale Liz And The Blue Bird forces two schoolgirls to face the fact that they may not be together forever.

Director: Naoko Yamada

Writer: Ayano Takeda, Reiko Yoshida

Starring: Atsumi Tanezaki, Nao Tôyama, Miyu Honda

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Japan


Search database: