Review: “Weathering With You”

4.5 out of 5 stars.

It’s hard to discuss “Weathering With You” without also bringing up “Your Name.”  The latter film, an anime movie from writer/director Makoto Shinkai, is one of the highest grossing Japanese films of all time, and has been critically praised across the board.  The story of a boy and girl connected by fate is, in a way, repeated in the filmmaker’s latest feature, “Weathering With You,” in which a high school boy named Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) runs away to rain-drenched Tokyo and meets a girl named Hina (Nana Mori), who has the power to bring out the sunshine.

Hina is a sunshine girl who brings clear skies to Tokyo in “Weathering With You”

“Weathering With You” is more grounded in reality than “Your Name,” both visually and thematically, but retains elements of mysticism.  While Hodaka and Hina’s relationship begins fairly normally, it soon becomes evident that Hina’s powers have set her on a path that is different from Hodaka’s, and he has to fight to change that fate to be with her.  There is also the underlying theme of climate change that pervades the film, as Tokyo experiences weather phenomena that may be exaggerated for the film, but could very well translate to reality.  The animation and visuals also do a lot to illustrate this fusion of reality and fantasy.  The stunningly detailed backgrounds give the city a look that is both beautiful and grimy—old neon signs flashing through rain and grey tones.  In contrast, the scenes set in nature feature colorful pastel tones, and the sunlight that radiates on the city when Hina uses her powers is rendered beautifully.  Every frame really is a work of art.

Actually, there really isn’t anything fundamentally wrong or bad about “Weathering With You.”  It’s a gorgeous-looking movie with a heart-felt story made by a filmmaker who clearly knows his voice.  The characters are compelling, including the supporting ones.  This includes Keisuke Suga (Shun Ogari), a writer who hires Hodaka and is one of the only sympathetic adults in a film that focuses on young people struggling to get by in the world.  Hodaka is a runaway being pursued by the cops.  Hina, also underage, has to work to care for her younger brother Nagi in the absence of their parents.  Even Keisuke’s college-age niece Natsumi can’t find a job.  The only problem is that this film came out after “Your Name,” setting expectations for this movie impossibly high.  The plot of “Weathering With You” does struggle some to tie itself up toward the end, and while it is overall very different from “Your Name,” the premise is similar enough that it removes a bit of the mystique from it.

Having said all that, “Weathering With You” is still a great achievement.  It successfully pulls heavy themes into an entertaining, contemporary fairytale in a way that American animated films rarely attempt, much less succeed at.  Shinkai has ushered in global excitement surrounding his storytelling, and I can’t wait to see what kind of magic he works next.

Runtime: 112 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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