In the spirit of its grandmother heroine, The Witch of the West Is Dead is, above all, a patient film. It lingers on the dialogue, on the lush shots of Granny’s garden and her surrounding Japanese countryside, and on the unfolding confidence of Mai, a 13-year-old girl who can’t quite shake her kid fears. The lingering needs patience from the viewer, too, as the plot can move maddeningly slow. But with a Zen-like approach, this film based on a popular children’s novel opens itself up like a clean sheet dried on a lavender bush (one of the film’s more touching moments). Mai (Mayu Takahashi) is shipped off by her concerned-but-busy mother (Ryo) to the house of her grandmother (American-born and Japanese-raised actor Sachi Parker). Granny is pretty much the ideal grandma: wise, loving, beautiful—and she makes a mean sandwich to boot. She’s also rumored to be a witch and, when asked, agrees to give Mai lessons on how to become one, too. Mai, perhaps too late, finds out what she’s really learning is how to find her own way in the world, even if it is populated by scary men and earthworms. The film’s end, though not a surprise, lands an emotional punch, after which you will either long for your own grandmother or, if you’re lucky, call her. —JB
At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22. Also at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 24. Both showings at the Avalon.