Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Running Time: 107 mins
Your Name is a Japanese film about two strangers, a high school boy from the city of Tokyo and a high school girl from a countryside town who inexplicably feel like they’re swapping lives at random times. However, they have doubts about the reality of the experiences, causing complications in one another’s lives.
This is a very good film, but it takes a while to reach that level. Although providing an entertaining fantasy first act revolving around the pair’s body-swapping, it takes a good fifty minutes for the film to develop into something truly great. Moving from enjoyment to stunning emotion, Your Name is ultimately an enthralling and powerful tale, one told with great visual beauty from Makoto Shinkai.
Shinkai, the director and writer of the likes of The Garden Of Words and 5 Centimeters Per Second is being dubbed as ‘the new Hayao Miyazaki’ by his third fantastic outing with Your Name. Undoubtedly, Shinkai is on a very similar level to Miyazaki when it comes to his visual style. Mixing the images of classic landscape paintings with some exceptional photo-realistic macro-focus shots, there’s no doubt that Shinkai is a master of anime when it comes to pulling off pure visual beauty.
Also, the second half of the film is evocative of a great Miyazaki picture. I’ll get into the specifics of the latter half in a minute, but suffice to say at this point that Shinkai definitely has the ability to match the likes of the great Miyazaki when it comes to bringing across both blissful and devastating human emotion, something that’s always even more powerful in animation.
Before I get into that, however, I want to talk about the first fifty minutes of Your Name. Initially, the film shows real promise with the way it handles the body-swapping genre. Rather than solely making silly comedy out of the situation, it’s full of some fascinating and brilliantly original ideas, cleverly blurring the line between the teenagers’ dreams and anxieties and the real world.
When the film is more dramatic and thoughtful, it’s always engrossing, testament to Shinkai’s expert writing. Unfortunately, there are moments that really stick out like a sore thumb, and prove the reason why Shinkai isn’t yet quite up to Miyazaki’s level.
For one, there are some striking tonal inconsistencies throughout this film, particularly around the half-hour mark. Frustratingly, there are about two or three musical montages throughout that make the film feel like a TV movie, and each time they appear, they’re more and more jarring, proving a hugely disappointing break in the film’s generally impressive elegance.
I understand that Shinkai has his own style, but his previous films haven’t ever used so many of these montages. They’re frustrating to see, and as they’re all bookended by awkward fades to black, they are undoubtedly the worst moments of the entire film. Happy, lightweight and enjoyable they may be, and they would definitely work in another movie, however they prove so inconsistent with the film’s best tone that it really sticks in your mind.
Despite that, the following hour or so is spectacular. Stepping up from an interesting but not always emotionally riveting first act, Shinkai dramatically turns the film into an emotionally stunning and powerful experience, with so much poetic elegance and sheer unpredictability that you can’t look away from the screen.
It’s difficult to discuss the second half without spoilers, but the way that the film manages to grab you so much by taking such a drastic turn, moving away from the fantasy of the body-swap to an incredibly human and tender story, Your Name is definitely worth the wait to get to the best bit.
Overall, I was hugely impressed by this film. It may not have the most consistent opening act, but the way that the film does provide some amazingly thoughtful and ultimately emotionally powerful moments is truly spectacular. Coupled with Makoto Shinkai’s incredible visual style, Your Name is a fantastic movie, and one that definitely reaches near the legendary heights of Studio Ghibli, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0.