Saturday, April 22, 2017

Your Name Film Review

by The Wanderer

Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi
MPAA Rating: PG
Length: 107 Minutes

Your name is ...

Mitsuha a high school girl from rural Itomori Japan, and Taki a high school boy from Tokyo, begin to intermittently switch bodies when they fall asleep at night and begin to dream.

Let me start by saying Your Name is brilliant. From an animation perspective, the drawings, especially the landscapes look like they could be saved as still shots and placed in a museum. The purples and blues used to depict the comet and the night skies are beautiful to say the least. A lot of the perspectives are close to ground level, giving the viewer a more intimate and grounded connection to the characters and the lives they're living. Mitsuha and Taki are incredibly relatable and the choices of animation style really helps to support this.

The film score is well done with a few memorable themes, but most of the time the music takes on a minimalist type of aesthetic. There is a rock song that pops in occasionally, that actually wasn't too distracting. The flow of the lyrics makes more sense in Japanese than they do in English. The dubbed version is well done, and is most likely the version you will encounter in an American theater. I also saw the subbed version, which was also excellent. In deciding between which version I liked better, I really can't make up my mind. I prefer the sub's translation, but reading the text distracted me from a lot of the details in the visuals, and the visuals like I said before, are stunning.

Besides, the more technical sides of the movie I just covered, I don't know how much I want to say about the plot. The little snippet of synopsis I wrote at the top was all I knew about the story going into it, and I'm glad that's all I knew after I finished seeing it. But since this is a film review I'm going to say a little more, because I can't help but keep writing about how good this movie is.

Your Name is a romance and love focused story. And love is a difficult subject to tackle. It's the most personal of feelings, and its experience varies so much from person to person. Trying to capture this emotional state's power and use it in a work of art while making it relatable to a large audience seems an almost insurmountable task. I believe it's even more difficult for a film to achieve this, as a film (usually) has one of the shortest run times of any work of art. How do you condense something like love into 107 minutes?

Well if you're going to do that, Makoto Shinkai certainly left a brilliant blueprint for how it can be done. In American cinema, romance films suffer from being some of the most overly cliche productions in existence. I would venture to guess some 95% of romance films more or less follow the same three part structure: guy and girl fall in love, guy and girl's flaws cause them to fight and the relationship to struggle, and finally the guy and girl get back together and live happily ever after (most of the time). The focus of these movies becomes can their love endure?

It's kind of a stupid question to think you can answer with an hour and half run time when you really start to think about it. In Your Name, the three part structure remains, but it's backwards. Instead of focusing on can their love endure?, the intimate experience of sharing another person's body makes for such a personal connection, that by time the first third of the movie is over, you're convinced this love will endure. Now the focus of the story becomes, will these two characters meet? 

And from there that's where Your Name transcends from clever funny rom-com, to brilliant love story that transcends distance, space, time, and fate. And I mean that literally. When I'm the most optimistic about love, I believe it's one of the most deeply felt and personal emotions that can become the best part of our collective human experience. It's something that can overcome all obstacles ... because you know ... the power of love. Reading those last two sentences, they're incredibly hokey sounding to me ... like the construct of most movie relationships. Because most movie relationships come across as so artificial, I don't buy in. But with Taki and Mitsuha I did buy in, I felt their love, and I believed they could overcome, and I don't think I've ever been as behind a movie couple like I was with them.

Speaking in terms of chronological release dates, the last romance focused film that I saw that was as great as Your Name, was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In terms of great anime films, it was Spirited Away. Maybe better put, there's a real good reason why this is now the highest grossing anime of all time, and why Shinkai, even though he wishes people would stop saying it, is being hailed as the next Miyazaki. It is definitely worth seeing in a theater, even if you have to travel a long distance to find one that's showing it.

Score: 10

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