This is a superior Japanese animated film, from Studio Ghibli based on a Diana Wynne-Jones book, which I now must read. It doesn't have the awesome genius of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, but is worth seeing.
I thought the last half hour failed, as the complexity of the storyline was too much for the storytelling conventions of an anime film. What a shame as there is plenty of wonderful stuff along the way. Miyazaki seems to know the hinterland of my subconscious, and the images of my dreams, and put them on the screen. How the hell does he do that every time?
The most important feature of the film was the celebration of the full range of womanhood, from shy girl to powerful mature woman, to wise crone, to senile, and to love and celebrate them all. How often do we see this in a film? The young girl is transformed into an old woman at the start, and at first this seems to be an entirely negative change. But soon she realises that the crone has her own power. And that the humble roles that women are put into have power.
Howl is an endearing hero, played with humour by Christian Bale. On acquiring red hair he flings himself face down in the ashes 'If I'm not beautiful then I don't want to live!' He loves the heroine at all stages and ages of her life.