Mio in the Land of Faraway

Starring: Christian Bale, Timothy Bottoms, Susannah York, Christopher Lee and Nicholas Pickard
Eureka Entertainment
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: U
Available 19 March 2007

Bosse has a life of drudgery. Following the death of his mother he is looked after by less than sympathetic relatives. His life takes a dramatic turn when Bosse comes into possession of a magical apple and is pursued by a disembodied head. The head is a portal to the land of Faraway where Bosse discovers that his real name is Mio and he is the kings' son. The only thing standing in the way of an idyllic ending to this story is the evil knight Kato who is stealing children and turning them into birds. Mio goes in search of Kato to free the children and bring peace to the land of Faraway...

Mio in the land of Faraway (1987) was directed by Vladimir Grammatikkov from the extremely popular novel by Astrid Lindgren. The film went on to win a Cinekid Film Award.

OK, so even from the above synopsis you can tell that this little number hasn't strayed very far from the most basic monomyth of downtrodden child who discovers that he is something more than he believes himself to be, but then a great idea is still a great idea.

The impressive cast do what they can with a script that requires little in the way of stretching acting muscles. Christopher Lee, who plays the evil Kato, must be able to do this sort of work in his sleep, though that doesn't make him any less entertaining to watch. Christian Bale plays Jum-Jum Mio's friend, once again a good performance, but what else would you expect from actors of this calibre. Susannah York and Timothy Bottom have a little less to do; especially Bottom's whose whole performance consists pretty much of hugging Mio.

I would presume that the film has not been restored as the print is not exactly great; colours are diffused giving an overall soft feel. This, however may not be an error, as I watched the film the feeling was very much like that of watching the live action Belle et Sebastian whose soft focus feel will be familiar to anyone who had to suffer badly dubbed European children's programs. That may explain the soft focus feel, however it does not explain the large amount of artefacts and general print damage that is evident. The audio doesn't fare any better, with stereo being your only option, which has a very front loaded, in your face soundscape. Understandable but not exactly a joy to listen to over a long period. The disc contains no extras.

In the end this is a kid's film, very much on par with the sort of thing that The Children's Film Foundation used to make. If taken on this level it's a nice piece of work, not a great film for adults, unless they are in tune with their inner child, but will make an engaging rainy Saturday afternoon nanny to keep the little ones silent.

Charles Packer

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