I’ve rewatched the movie countless times over the past decade. If I had a comfort food, it would be this film. But that’s not to say I find it completely comforting. The older I grow, the less I feel like My Neighbor Totoro is a kids’ movie. Its mesmerizing surrealism can no longer hide the profound sadness of two girls missing their mother as they struggle to grow up.
The silence was in no way uncomfortable; most times, it was pleasant, even relaxing. But underneath was a low thrum of pent-up frustration, which I only became aware of every once in a while. There was so much I wanted to tell her — about my high school track meets, the school paper, later my college roommates — and so much I wanted to ask, that I simply could not.