Written by Anna Kwa
Your Name (2016) is a visual feast – each frame is lovingly drawn, coloured and animated. Whether it’s the gleaming skyline of Tokyo, a nostalgic high-school classroom with panoramic prairie glass windows, or the gold and scarlet of autumn leaves, director Makoto Shinkai ensures that every frame is a work of art.
Throughout the film’s diegesis, binaries are a central motif that presents intriguing visual juxtapositions: urban city and rural countryside, modernity and tradition, masculine and feminine, beginning and end. In the midst of it all, our two contrasting main characters form an intimate bond despite being separated by distance, time and memory.
The plot revolves around two high-school teenagers: Mitsuha, a countryside girl who longs to leave her rural hometown behind, and Taki, a Tokyo city boy whose predominant concern was mustering the courage to confess his affections towards an attractive co-worker.
In a fantastical twist of the plot, the two are forced into an exercise of profound empathy where they exchange bodies and lives at random. As they attempt to navigate the other’s life, they learn more about each other’s perspectives and lived experiences, sparking a comedy of awkward encounters, erroneous mannerisms and feigning identities. Shinkai and his animation team surface the trails of adolescence with incredible grace and tenderness. The characters communicate through handwritten and digital notes, attend each other’s schools and subsequently, fall in love. Their heartfelt connection is amplified with Shinkai’s use of low angle shots that signals the vulnerability and helplessness of his protagonists’ romantic predicament – the couple’s reunion is thwarted by insurmountable distances and temporal shifts.
Something melancholic lurks in this tale of youthful awkwardness and exuberance. The oft-repeated shot of sliding doors is a nod to the fact that separation is imminent. The body swap halts. All lines of communication are severed. Taki futilely tries to contact Mitsuha but with no avail. Over time, faces become blurry and memories fade – Taki cannot even remember Mitsuha’s name.
The second half of the film departs from the light-hearted quips featured in its initial premise. Instead, a ticking time-bomb looms over the plot, heralding an ominous catastrophe that involves a comet en route to destroy an entire town. Here, the narrative becomes a little confusing, but not uninteresting, and the climax certainly tugs at the audience’s heartstrings as the two lovers embrace at long last.
The film is buoyed by a sweeping impeccable soundtrack that captures the blossoming feelings of young love and the fiery determination of chasing a dream you wish lasted a little longer.
Despite hiccups in the flow of the narrative, Your Name is a tribute to the fact that we are a mosaic of every person encountered in our lives – individuals who have come and gone, but irrevocably touched our hearts. It’s a sentimental meditation on love and loss that posits those connected by fate will always find a way to meet.
This review is published as an extension of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme organised by The Filmic Eye with support from the Singapore Film Society.
About the Author: Anna is a student currently studying creative writing. She likes using films as a way to explore humanity’s peaks and crevices. In her free time, she likes baking, watching TV, and playing with her dog.
About the Movie:
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Kamiki Ryûnosuke (Taki), Kamishiraishi Mone (Mitsuha), Nagasawa Masami (Miki), Narita Ryo (Teishigawara)
Duration: 1h 52mins
Synopsis:Two teenagers who lead drastically different lives wake up to discover they are swapping bodies in their sleep. In pursuit of getting to the bottom of this strange phenomenon, they begin to search for one another.
Catch Your Name on Netflix now.