Utter bliss from start to finish in a way that most animated features can only dream of being, and if you don’t like it, then you don’t have a soul.
Makoto Shinkai is the next Hayao Miyazaki. No competition. No debate. Shinkai is nothing short of a master of his craft, possessing a command over the pictures he paints on screen like no artist I’ve seen before. His entire filmography comprises some of the most beautiful imagery in any film, animated or not. The way he uses hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping and computer-generated imagery is nothing short of photorealistic. And any dissenting opinions that weren’t already settled by The Garden of Words and 5 Centimeters Per Second will now be silenced once and for all by Your Name.
When you get past the ‘hilarious’ jokes that such a title will inevitably precipitate, drop everything that you’re doing and watch this film, preferably with as many friends and members of family in tow as possible. I don’t care if you don’t even finish reading this review, go to your nearest multiplex and demand tickets (if they’re not showing it, burn the cinema to the ground). And when you’ve finished watching it, watch it again. And then maybe again after that. No other film in 2016 has made me feel this happy and this glad to be alive. I know it’s corny, but it’s true…in fact this may be the most beautiful film of the year.
Shinkai’s use and understanding of animation has always been splendorous – utterly extravagant while at the same time completely authentic and genuine; Your Name is no exception. Wherever Shinkai sets the scene, whether it be the urban sprawl of Tokyo or the fictional Lake Itomori, there is a strong sense of place, felt in both the attention to detail and the art style. Shinkai’s meticulous vision of Tokyo’s cityscape is full of majesty and presence, while Lake Itomori is presented to the viewer as a pseudo-mythical barrier between the real world and the other. Both are distinct, and yet the film, much like its two protagonists, feels like a consistent, cohesive whole; never two separate entities muscling in on each other’s territory.
But the film’s beauty is not just skin-deep, and past the magnificent imagery exists an equally wonderful story of youths, Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) who sporadically switch bodies, to sometimes hilarious, sometimes deeply emotional results. Multiple concepts, including spiritualism and magical realism are discussed and experimented with. The film draws from various sources, and is strongly reminiscent of Banana Yoshimoto’s works such as Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. But this is not a question of borrowing from a superior text to create something inferior, and the film’s funny, charming, deeply human story would not feel unwelcome alongside any of her books. This may seem like a lot to pile on just one film, which isn’t even all that long, but despite all this, the film never loses focus of what it is: a love story.
The visual aesthetic works in tandem with the narrative almost perfectly, including a beautifully understated motif of opening and closing doors – indicating both a separation and connection between Taki and Mitsuha. Other moments are a little less high-brow, and sure the film falls victim to many of the clichés that are expected of a body-swap movie (the inevitable sex jokes and misunderstandings are aplenty), which would normally be enough to turn me away with my head in my hands, but that moment never came – I was too busy laughing along with everyone else. I mean how can you, in all honesty, dislike a film with a heart as big as this one?
I went into Your Name expecting to see a beautifully-animated, rather vacuous film that I could just switch off to while I drooled over the visuals. What I wasn’t expecting was to be taken on one of the most tumultuous, heartfelt rides of the year that by the end reduced me to a state that can only be described as ‘emotional jelly’. Yes, I broke down in tears, but so what? Strong men cry too you know! Filled with enough character to rival any Studio Ghibli film (and animation to surpass some of its canon), Your Name will reaffirm your love of life, cinema and storytelling in general.
Your Name (2016), directed by Makoto Shinkai, is distributed by National Amusements. Certificate 12A.