Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: The voices of Ryűnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryô Narita, Aoi Yuki, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani, Masaki Terasoma
MPAA Rating: (for thematic elements, suggestive content, brief language, and smoking)
Running Time: 1:46
Release Date: 4/7/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | April 6, 2017
A gorgeous animated film from director Makoto Shinkai, Your Name is a sweet combination of naďve romantic sentimentality and thought-provoking science-fiction. It's better as the latter, especially because its philosophy on the apparent inevitability of cosmically ordained tragedy seems at odds with the sunny optimism of its romantic leanings. This is a film that quite deftly juggles an assortment of tones, though, so perhaps the incapability of those two ideas isn't as foundational as it seems.
There's a lot to dissect here, so those shifting tones are as good a place to start as any. The story comes from Shinkai's own novel of the same name (He also wrote the film's screenplay), and it begins as body-swapping comedy. The minds of a teenage girl from a small village in the middle of nowhere and a teenage boy from bustling Tokyo switch places at random. The swap lasts for a day, and afterwards, neither party can remember what happened. Both are shocked to discover that their friends and families believe they have been possessed in some way. The girl is especially horrified to hear from her younger sister that the sister caught the girl groping her own breasts in the morning.
All of this is played as a gag. The girl is Mitsuha (voice of Mone Kamishiraishi), the daughter of a former Shinto priest who now lives with her religious grandmother (voice of Estuko Ichihara) and younger sister (voice of Kanon Tani). Her father (voice of Masaki Terasoma), who left religion after the death of his wife, is now the mayor of the village.
Mitsuha only has two friends. The rest of the class looks at her with curiosity or disdain on account of her participation in various religious ceremonies. She desperately wants to leave the village and move to Tokyo after graduation.
That's where we find Taki (voice of Ryűnosuke Kamiki), the boy, who is also in high school, only has a couple of friends, and works as a waiter at a restaurant. He has a crush on his co-worker Miki (voice of Masami Nagasawa), who's older and to whom Taki can barely work up the nerve to talk.
The swapping begins before the story starts (It begins with a painterly shot of a comet traveling in space, before a piece of it falls through some clouds toward the land below), although neither character is aware of what's happening. It's like a dream for both of them, and just like dreams, they gradually forget the experience soon after it occurs. Eventually, they figure out a way to communicate with each other, using memos in each's smartphone and notes scribbled in marker on the other's hand (and forearm in Mitsuha's case with Taki, since she has a few more important rules for him). Each doesn't like the other getting involved in his or her love life. Both insist they're happy being single. They both protest too much, methinks.
The film's opening act is upbeat, with peppy pop music punctuating the proceedings. Shinkai has made a comedy here, and it's a fairly smart one, too, about the way these characters influence each other's lives based on their own, respective experiences.
Taki learns about respect for nature and the proper way to treating a member of the opposite sex (When he's in Mitsuha's place, he's still tempted to touch her body, though). Mitsuha gets a taste of city life and learns she could be just fine living there herself. Each makes the other's life better in some way, and there's a lingering feeling that they should meet. A dream makes it seem that they might have at some point. Was it a dream, though?
There's a drastic shift in tone when that meeting seems as if it could happen. Without saying too much, the story suddenly becomes one of mass tragedy, involving the film's opening shot, and it becomes apparent that there's a another layer to the metaphysics of the body-swapping gimmick. Even though one needs the other to stop an impending disaster, it's impossible for these two characters to meet. Then again, it would seem impossible that their minds could switch bodies, too, right?
The specifics of the dilemmas here—involving the mind-switching and possibly alterable timelines—aren't as important as the mood Shinkai creates after the film's most significant revelation (Shinkai's screenplay sets the third act in motion by means of what is essentially a magical drink, so looking for any science or logic here is pointless). It's an air of doom and hopelessness—of some deeper connection between two people that will go unrequited on account of forces beyond their control or understanding. The third act is a race against time, but it's still grounded in the body-switching story. While Taki seems to have an advantage of knowing what's going to happen, it's nice that Shinkai makes Mitsuha the chief agent in the climax's final stages.
The film's aesthetic qualities are undeniable. Shinkai offers characters who come from the tradition of anime and manga (the big, expressive facial features and scrawny bodies) and places them against backdrops created with painstaking detail via traditional and computer techniques (A montage that tells the story of Mitsuha's life is particularly beautiful in the way it suggests a watercolor portrait in the making). Especially striking are the animators' creation and use of light to punctuate certain shots.
Some of the story's complexity is undermined by romantic notions about the central characters that are sappier than the rest of this material. Those sentiments attempt to give Your Name an emotional core that's never earned (The relationship never feels like a romance anyway, but Shinkai has a different understanding), but that doesn't change the fact that the film is, at its best, a thoughtful variation on an old gimmick that becomes more meditative and richer as it progresses.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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