Okko’s Inn Review: A beautiful and genuine look at dealing with grief at a young age
Beautifully animated and full of excellently patient storytelling, Okko’s Inn is a personal and heart-warming film that delves into dealing with grief at a young age.
The film follows Okko (Madigan Kacmar), a young girl who goes to live with her grandmother Mineko (Glynis Ellis) at her inn after her parents are killed in a car accident. Upon arriving, Okko becomes the junior innkeeper and begins to see the ghost of young boy named Uribo (KJ Aikens) that helps her become acquainted with the position. Together the two interact with other spirits that surround the inn and Okko begins to grieve and understand her parent’s death.
From start to finish, the film’s animation is colorful, imaginative, and grand in scale. There’s a strong sense of realism mixed with fantasy elements that create scenes that are full of imagination. Seeing Uribo chase Miyo (Tessa Frascogna) through parade floats and seeing what Okko’s classmate, Matsuki’s (Carly Williams), inn looks like was beautiful. Even each character is given a distinct look and color palette that is only highlighted great once the stellar voice cast gives their respective character a unique personality. Each character brings their own kind of humor, their own thoughts on death and grieving, and makes an impact into Okko’s life.
What makes this film so special is how it really makes Okko an incredibly relatable character for audiences to connect to as her build-up of trying to deal with her parents’ death is incredibly well-done. Often times, when children are shown to be grieving in film, they’re generally very quiet or distant to those around them. However, Okko is different in that she tries to be involved with those around her and puts a lot of her effort into making Mineko proud and that the inn guests are satisfied. While her demeanor throughout most of the film is more happy and hopeful, the film never forgets to have her confront her inner grief through flashbacks and small mementos. This inner conflict especially comes in the film’s final moments that are tough not to shed a tear for.
Even outside of Okko, I couldn’t help but be incredibly engaged and interested with each interaction she has. No character, big or small, was left out to dry and each of them add something unique to Okko’s grieving process. There’re tons of scenes where Okko becomes more connected to Mineko through her past with Uribo, begins to open up about her feelings towards her parents’ death to an inn guest, and even starts to understand Matsuki’s issues due to her connection to another spirit. I really found it impressive that for even having a short, 90-minute, runtime, I still got to know each character on a pretty deep level and it made me really appreciate their roles in the film.
What I also found impressive and pretty surprising was how interested I was in how the film depicts the life of inn-keepers and what they mean to Japanese culture. The film actually has some interesting messages about acceptance through Mineko’s wish to please everyone that stays at their inn and the constant reminder she gives to Okko that anyone and everyone is allowed to stay. There’s a sense of honor, hospitality, and respect that’s given to the idea of the inns as a whole and it was incredibly interesting to see it on-screen.
Okko’s Inn is a pure surprise and an excellently engaging story filled with grounded, relatable themes and fantastically fun animation. It has a genuine sense of maturity in the ways it handles it’s themes about grieving and is imaginative throughout making it a memorable watch for anyone.