The dream I must have had I can never recall.
I’m going to tell you almost nothing about this beautiful animated film from Japan. It’s the kind of movie that you need to watch knowing as little as possible. The most central plot point is a body swap. One morning, a girl from rural Japan and a boy from bustling Tokyo wake up to find that they have switched bodies, Freaky Friday style. That’s all I’m telling you. Except that you absolutely must go see this movie. From that premise, the film goes in some really unexpected and compelling directions and this movie is essentially unclassifiable. It’s obviously a fantasy, a sort of magical realism film, but beyond that, things get murky. In the sections dealing with the main characters adjusting to this new weird reality of body swapping at random times, the movie becomes absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud more times than I could count. There’s a particularly genius running gag that happens every time the boy wakes up in the girl’s body; unlike most running gags, they find a way to make it genuinely funnier every time. But the film then goes in some surprising dramatic directions. There’s a surprising plot twist or two. The film becomes a meditation on fate, a heart-tugging drama about the choices we make and the way they define our lives. Ultimately, the movie seems to be about the reality of magic in our lives; the real magic is in genuine connection with people. The movie ruminates on the modern condition in a lot of ways. It’s about how disconnected we often feel, how random our lives seem and that vague discontent that seems to define so much of our lives, that restless feeling that there should be more meaning in our lives, more depth to who we are. And, ultimately, about the magic of real emotional connection between people and the power of that to change our lives. And the ending is just dead perfect. The final line of the film is, I think, the best ending movie line I’ve encountered in . . . a couple of years? Longer maybe. The animation is gorgeous and the music is perfect. I walked out of this movie on a real emotional high. I hadn’t heard of Shinkai before, but if this is representative of his work then we have an heir to Miyazaki’s throne already; I can’t think of any movies outside of Miyazaki’s work that really contain this kind of magical wonder and Shinkai has crafted a compelling drama around that wonder as well. Your Name is a must see. 4 stars.
tl;dr – beautiful animated film is hilarious, heart-breaking, surprising & magical; a compelling meditation on modern loneliness & the powerful magic of real emotional connection. 4 stars.