I’d be remiss to critique a film as complex, perplexing, and beautiful as Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name without first stating that my knowledge of Anime is basically zilch. My experience with the art form is pretty much limited to the filmography of the masterful Hayao Miyazaki, which in the layman’s tongue is equivalent to an American who has only ever seen Pixar movies declaring their love for animated films. It’s easy to adore and appreciate the obvious greats; it’s harder to really dig past that first layer. So I suggest that you seek this movie out and that you sit through it. Not only because it’s different and challenging and culturally astute, but because it’s a strange experience, and a film full of particularly amazing artistry.
Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) attends high school in Tokyo. Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) lives in the mountains of Japan. And for whatever inexplicable reason – quite literally, as this brave film never shies away from hiding its details rather than openly disclosing them all at once – the two swap bodies. What’s their connection? Why him and why her? Your Name is a demanding watch because as an animation, the body-switching is less obvious than that of a film acted by real people, and we have to play closer attention to the characters’ faces, their eyes, their voices. I found it frustratingly difficult, which I suspect is an intentional effort to pull us into the hysteria of the drama felt by the two leads. Are they dreaming? Are these merely dissociative manic episodes? Or are they truly walking in another’s shoes? Your Name’s hopeful heart leans towards the latter.
While I admittedly couldn’t have cared less about the time-twisted and tested relationship at the story’s center – one that felt, at least to me, precocious and rather dubious – I couldn’t recommend Your Name any more solely based on its hypothetical quandaries and utterly exquisite compositions. This is a lived and painted film about the beauty of human connectivity that’s been showered onto the screen through images of pure bliss and harmony, some too quick and some too erratic, while others become spaced-out gaps of jaw-dropped wonderment. Your Name tended to be a little too slow for me despite its ceaseless cutting, that one viewing proved to be too inexplicable, and that it lacked a bit of personality. And yet I can’t remember another recent film where I cared about the beauty of the background more than the livelihood of those in the foreground. It’s as colorful and as faceless as Seurat’s famous large canvas piece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jatte.”
The physics of this story bend and dip in ways that even Christopher Nolan would want to inspect the machinations with a keenly observant eye. It’s a genuine head scratcher. There’s a cascading comet ready to light up the sky, and despite news reports, an earnest meteor shower is ready to obliterate those not told to evacuate. The drama unfolds forthwith from that point forward and is surprisingly comedic as well. Your Name is the type of film I watched and admired and could still only meet in the middle, not because it’s bad or because it’s bizarre, but because it positions our vantage point through unsure characters. The body-switching is as funny as a straightforward Dudley Moore picture (ever seen the horrible Like Father Like Son? This is better to say the least) and as existential as Fincher’s Fight Club (that scene admiring the night’s sky? It’s reminiscent and evocative of The Narrator and Marla clutching hands, watching the skyline fall, their fate adjunct to what they’re experiencing in real time.) Ultimately, Your Name is too eager and hyper in its approach, practically begging to be liked and understood, but it’s also so damn interesting that you can barely look away. We take what we can get.
In the end, Shinkai’s film is fairly spectacular in its approach and pretty pedestrian in its telling. Where’s the heart and soul and the medicine concocted to remedy these deficiencies? The pieces are there in every inch and every frame, but the love story doesn’t translate to audiences as near or as far as it should. But if you’re able to look past the colorful contusions and the self-righteous respect for its own aptitude, Your Name slowly transitions from a meet/greet movie into something more. A film embattled by the polarizing labor of the sexes, defined by time, and a visual proof that love can find a way if it’s able to will a way. This review of Your Name would be completely different had I watched it once more, and to me, that’s what makes it as temporarily unsound as it is occasionally euphoric.
“Nothing more, nothing less…than a beautiful view.”
Rating: 4 out of 5