A Letter to Momo

A preteen girl whose father has died unexpectedly moves with her mother to a remote island community, where she’s befriended by three impish goblins that only she can see. This Japanese animation (2011) inspires comparisons to Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro at almost every turn, though rarely to its own benefit. Writer-director Hiroyuki Okiura lacks Miyazaki’s sensitivity in depicting childhood trauma, lapsing too often into sentimentality, and his goblins don’t inspire wonder or affection the way Miyazaki’s creatures do. The hand-drawn animation looks great, though; after the fashion of Miyazaki’s films, the visual style achieves a satisfying balance between realistic detail and painterly flourishes, and the laid-back pacing allows one to savor both.