he knock-on effect of social distancing is undoubtably the abundance of time so many people are spending with their immediate families. I’m being inundated with stories of clingy mothers, annoying teenagers, the never-ending dad jokes from which there’s no escape… so to recommend a film that'll soothe  troubling thoughts and perhaps bring the family together - if only for two hours and five - one that also explores the value we place on our families, when they are... and are no longer around.

If you’ve not seen Anime, Spirited Away is a good place to start. Studio Ghibli (the makers of the film) found enormous success in the West - Japanese Disney is reductive but helpful to first time viewers. Their stories translate well and rely on universal themes often with a Japanese twist and Spirited Away is no exception - in fact it's a superb example and was my way in too. Netflix recently bought the license for the entire Studio Ghibli catalogue, which means they can now be enjoyed for free by anyone with a Netflix account.

For a long time I was put off by anime, I thought it might be too weird - or only for children - but like so many  before me, I found my way into the world of Hayao Miyazaki (the film’s writer and director) and I was hooked. A co-founder of the studio, Miyazaki created many of their most successful movies; I’ll be returning to him frequently in this blog.

Not too dissimilar from Alice in Wonderland, the film follows Chihiro, a young girl, through the magical world she finds herself in… on a quest to… The brilliance of this film is it’s inventiveness, and to give even minor twists and turns away feels like bad show - you’re best going in blind on this one, but if you're a fan of family friendly adventure films in the classic Disney tradition, believe me you won’t be disappointed here.

Suffice to say, this is a wonderful hand-drawn animated adventure film; the likes of which new viewers won’t have seen before. Wholeheartedly original in plot and character, this is a finely wrought film that the entire family can come together to enjoy.

Parents, this is a PG, but contains a few scary scenes and mild threat that may not be appropriate for smaller children.

At the time of writing Spirited Away and the entire Miyazaki catalogue are available on Netflix.

Running Time: 205 minutes.