Of all the films produced by Studio Ghibli (you should watch them all) Whisper of the Heart is the least fantastical, and yet it is still somehow magical. Even Grave of the Fireflies, with its darkness and war-time realism has a hint of the supernatural, but Whisper is completely grounded. Whisper of the Heart is a tale of a young girl named Shizuku finding her place in the world, not is some mystical enchanted world, or one full of beasts and monsters, just our plain old ordinary world. She struggles with relationships and with deciding what she wants to make of her life. Ultimately, it is when she hears her heart's whispers that she finds confidence to carve out her own role in the world. There is such realism and truth about the characters' portrayals that you can't help but be drawn into the story. I cannot wait for the day that my little girl is old enough to sit down and watch this movie. One of the things I loved was the use of John Denver's Country Road which plays throughout the film. For some reason, this little country tune fits right into the setting of a Tokyo suburb.
For Ghibli fans, this film has a couple of other interesting ties to other Ghibli films. The town of Tama where this story takes place was also the setting of the film Pom Poko in which the magical raccoons (tanuki) fought a losing battle to maintain their habitat. Also, the Baron, a main character in The Cat Returns, is introduced here (as a figurine). In fact, it turns out the story of The Cat Returns is actually supposed to be written by Shizuku following the events in this film. Throughout Whisper, we see some of Shizuku's inspirations for The Cat Returns as well as her first efforts at becoming a writer.
Just reading what this film is about probably does not provide a compelling reason to see it, but I cannot stress enough that there is so much more to this movie that what happens. It's hard to explain what makes this film so good, but it captures a sense of purity that is so rare in films. It is truly touching, and takes home an A.