Director Makoto Shinkai has delivered greater films than his latest, the climate change aware Weathering With You. His films such as 5 Centimeters Per Second and the 2016 megahit Your Name offered greater nuances in storytelling as opposed to the linear narrative presented here which doesn’t so much amount to dizzying audiences with storytelling leaps but instead aims to transfixed with visuals that are, without a doubt, some of Shinkai’s finest ever. It may not leave you as impressed as some of his prior works, but there’s little to no doubt that Weathering With You leaves one stunned at the sheer, visual magnitude on display in practically every frame. Not his best, but by miles his most beautiful.
Like many of Shinkai’s films, Weathering With You introduces us to a makeshift pair, a boy running away from home – Hodaka – and a girl he meets in Tokyo – Hina – who offers him kindness and a quite literal ability to brighten skies. Hina can control the weather by prayer and the two utilize this ability to grant wishes for sunny days to Tokyo residents who’ve grown restless and downtrodden by the puddle ridden city. Having been plagued by a longer than usual rainy season, the torrential weather both unites these two loners and injects their worlds and the lives of others with some necessary light.
The marriage of jaw dropping animation and musical cues layer to make something undeniably dynamic and wholly euphoric in execution – by the time the crescendo strikes with as much ferocity as some of the films gloomier days, we’re as caught up in the spectacle as we possibly could be. The clouds part, Radwimps plays on, voices cutting straight through us, and the chills are decorating our arms before we’ve even realized why. The script, alst by Shinkai, isn’t anything profound, but it’s heartfelt, aching with a sincere want for human connection and a plea for humanity action that forgoes typical animated fare where sincerity is met with something treacly sweet or pandering. The artistry on display – balanced and elevated by the score by Radwimps – asserts just why viewers are so drawn to not just Shinkai’s films, but the medium in general. It grants the story of personal hardship and found connections the same level of gravity as a story of climate change and human inaction with an animation style that displays the ongoing buzz of Tokyo and the isolation that comes from it. The artistry is a way of showcasing both the deeply intimate and otherworldly in a manner that’s never jarring.
Where it falters is somewhere in the end of the second act as the action stalls out in order to set up the following beats, a necessary evil that’s executed with significantly less finesse that the rest of the film. Having kicked the story off with such gusto and ending on notes of true wonder, the middle flounders as it tries to delve deeper into the lore of the story and the dynamics of secondary characters. It lends itself to a decent payoff but the minutes are felt in comparison to the breezy pace of the start.
While not wholly fair to grade on a curve (and not to say that the film doesn’t have plenty of positives leading up until this point – see above) it’s nearly impossible when taking in the tremendous crescendo Weathering With You thrusts our way. Every ounce of emotion that had been flirted with, every rain drop that had been gorgeously rendered and then, even more so, each moment of bliss when a ray of sun protrude through the overwhelming dark skies above, all of those moments of visceral hope come flooding through the screen in the last moments of the film. Action, heart, romance and optimism pours out as our characters stress their fingertips towards any last chance for happiness that they can, no matter the sacrifice or immeasurable odds stacked in their way. The meditative pace leading up to these climatic scenes brings greater clarity into the actions of the protagonists because while tepid in moments, they allowed the audience to truly grow and care for Hodaka, Hina and co., and believe in their pursuit to change the world by offering a little bit of line in storm ridden cities.