HomeMovies'Weathering with You' Review: Not Quite as Strong 'Your Name.'

‘Weathering with You’ Review: Not Quite as Strong ‘Your Name.’

Weathering With You
Photo Courtesy Fathom Events

Your Name. is a film I continue to hold intensely dear to my heart. Yes, it boasts some virtually flawless synergy in its filmmaking, story, and theme, but it was also the exact film I needed at the exact time that I saw it and it truly changed my life. It was an intimate and emotional experience about loss and personal connection and the uncertainty of life that affected me on a near subatomic level. It is still my favorite film of all time.

After delving further into writer-director Makoto Shinkai’s filmography, and his latest story, Weathering With You, I have concluded that Mr. Shinkai was put on this Earth with one distinct purpose: to cut my emotions to the bone until I am but a puddle of tears dripping off a theater chair.

Told in a much more straightforward, sequential manner than Your Name.‘s mystery box format, Weathering With You follows the beautifully tragic relationship between Hodoka (voiced by Kotaro Daigo), a 16-year-old runaway from an island village and the sunshine girl Hina (Nana Mori), a 17-year-old who possesses the unique power to pray for sunshine amid Tokyo’s never-ending rain showers while also taking care of her brother, Nagi. The three carve out a life for themselves, profiting off Hina’s gift by offering it to the public, discovering the power weather has to change a person’s mood or their entire day. Their bond quickly evolves into a family of misfits fighting to stay together as the world threatens to tear them apart.

Weathering With You lives up to the Shinkai’s incredibly high standards and iconic visual and narrative style. He again shows himself a genius at breaking down his cosmic-scale premises into relatable and almost primal emotions. It is a coming-of-age story about sacrifice and building a home out of whatever surroundings and circumstances you have and holding onto it no matter what. Shinkai once again dives into themes of adolescence, connection, distance, loss, love, and the value of the people in our lives who make us feel whole. Where Weathering With You diverges from his previous work is in how his ending challenges his audience instead of devastating or reassuring them. The end of the film does not solely ask the viewer if they would be willing to sacrifice to be able to hold on to those people, it outright accuses them of it.

The more that Hodoka and the viewer learn about Hina’s power, the more apparent become the parallels the film draws to climate change. Stakes are gradually outlined until the characters are forced to choose between running away from their problems and staying in oblivious childhood with their newfound fragile stability and happiness, growing up by taking responsibility and saving Tokyo from meteorological catastrophe. The parallels to current climate issues are explicit, but the film’s focus is fully on the budding love story between the two leads and how uniquely indispensable the families we choose are to us. And filtered through that lens, the film knows which option we would choose.

But, it reminds us in its closing minutes, slightly untwisting the knife of its cynicism, it is not our fault. Our desires for connection and happiness and to be whole are what make us human. After searching for it for so long, who could blame us for acting selfishly to preserve it, and who would do any differently?

Such a risky gambit only works if it is accompanied by rock-solid storytelling and strong enough characters for the audience to fall in love with and get in their headspace. Though the plot veers toward conventional and slightly repetitive toward the end of the second act, these are two of Shinkai’s biggest strengths. Hina emanates more pathos than the film initially feels capable. The three youngsters are adorable together and losing any one of them is unthinkable. The joys they experience by simply being together are tangible. And seeing them grapple with the impossible choices and circumstances laid out in front of them is equally gutting because of how universal we find the anxiety and sorrow at their core to be.

CoMix Wave Films outdoes itself with the astonishing animation on display. Nearly every moment of the film is filtered by rainfall, which yields some gorgeously melancholy shots framing Hodoka’s lonely and chaotic life. But every time Hina brings the sun out, the studio is almost boasting how staggeringly beautiful animation can be. The medium has made unbelievable strides in the last decade, but Weathering With You feels in a league of its own. There is one scene toward the middle of the film involving fireworks that is so artistically sumptuous it may stay with me for months.

And yet, despite the spectacular visuals exhibited and the symphony of emotions the characters and narrative effortlessly extract from the viewer, Weathering With You‘s final productultimately comes up short in comparison to the cinematic triumph of Your Name. Though each of the components of its storytelling is painstakingly brought to life–undoubtedly by hundreds of hours of work–the film lacks the sense of synergy between them all that made Shinkai’s previous project such a phenomenon. Aspects like the plot, the voice acting, the editing or the new soundtrack by Radwimps exist harmoniously in some scenes and clash in others. The experience inadvertently calls attention to the effort of its production and prevented me from fully giving myself over to the story.

But Weathering With You‘s inability to fully measure up to Your Name. (a film I consider a masterpiece) can hardly be considered a mark against it. Where I connected deeply to the age and mindset of the characters of the latter, the former was written for and about a phase of life I have not yet fully accessed. Those who have may find it an even richer and more painfully honest story. Regardless, that disconnect seldom took away from the film’s numerous merits. This is still one of the most gripping and emotionally devastating films I have seen in ages. It is the first can’t-miss movie of the year, and another slam dunk for one of my favorite and most underrated filmmakers.

Weathering with You is still playing in select theaters.


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