Adopting an abandoned animal helps a tyke learn life lessons in cute, warm and glossy Japanese pic, “Helen the Baby Fox.” While to the gaijin view this may seem aimed squarely at the kid’s market, socko Nipponese B.O. for guide dog yarn “Quill” in 2004, would suggest film may have substantial legs across several generations. Outside of Japan, pic will be best suited for fests with kiddie sidebars, as the dramatic narrative outweighs the cuteness factor.
Seven-year old Taichi (Arashi Fukasawa) is shunted to the remote Hokkaido home of a veterinarian (Takao Osawa) when his camerawoman mom travels on a Pacific photographic assignment. Feeling neglected, the tyke takes pity on a deaf, blind, mute fox he names after Helen Keller. This guardian role teaches Taichi about parental responsibilities and sharpens his appreciation of his career mom’s duty to make a living for both their benefits. Kono’s helming is slick and exquisite lensing makes the most of the Hokkaido locations. Thesps are fine, though Fukasawa is a tad too soft-spoken as the emotionally wounded Taichi. Soundtrack is insistent, but includes some beguiling jazzy interludes. Tech credits are sharp.