My Neighbour Totoro is 1988 animated children's film by Hayao Miyazaki.
It's the 1950s in Japan. A university professor, Tatsuo Kusakabe, moves to a new house with his daughters Mei and Satsuki. Their mother is ill and is staying at the hospital. Their new house however makes them neighbours with with a forest spirit, the eponymous Totoro, who the children befriend.
Totoro is a film that manages to combine seamlessly the seeming opposites of realism and imaginative fantasy. The everyday lives of the Kusakabe family is on one hand depicted with utter realism, with no artificial drama or plot grafted on. Yet the film glides without any trouble into fantasy, when the children interact with Totoro and other spirits.
And what fantasy it is. My Neighbour Totoro is perhaps the only film to truly capture what it is like being a child. The fantasy sequences has a truly childlike aspect to them, that makes them utterly charming. The sheer imagination is of course also helped by the utterly beautiful animations. The music by Joe Hisaishi is also wonderful.
Not that the realist sequences are boring either. Despite being void of plot and having pretty much no conflict, they are utterly compelling to watch. The idyll that the family lives never seems unrealistic or sentimental, but utterly real. This is in part due to the fact that the joy that the family finds lie in common everyday things.
The realism of the idyll is also due to the fact that there are also minor, but contrasting shades of darkness in the film, primarily the illness of the mother. Miyazaki doesn't forget that being a child doesn't only mean wonder and imagination, but also being powerless and fearful.
These shades are however never overpowering and everything works out nicely in the end. This remains if not Miyazaki's greatest work, undoubtedly his most charming and heart-warming film