When I went to see the Japanese animated film Your Name last night, it proved to be one of those “interesting” trips to the cinema, in the same manner as Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
First off, I went to the ticket counter and instinctively said, “Your Name, please.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realised I should have worded the request a little better, as the ticket girl immediately looked bewildered and glanced down at her fairly obvious name tag. “I mean, the film,” I clarified after a few awkward seconds.
My local cinema was only having two showings of Your Name, one subtitled and one dubbed: at the recommendation of my friend Rachel Wagner – Your Name was her favourite movie of 2016 – I was going to the former. I was pleased that I wasn’t the only one there: by the time the film started, there were about thirty people watching. It took me a little time to really settle into the film, but eventually I was totally engrossed. I was loving it. It was a thing of beauty. Eventually, the film reached its climax and there was so much tension that I was leaning forward in my seat.
Then, at the end of a very dramatic scene, about ten minutes away from the end, the screen went black. There was silence for a few seconds, then a voice could be heard. I thought at first it was just the film, though it seemed odd that no subtitles were appearing. But as the dialogue and background noise continued with nothing visible on the screen, everybody realised that – at the worst possible moment – the projector had broken, which I could not recall ever witnessing at this cinema before.
We were all left waiting for half an hour as the cinema staff tried to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, it was now past 10pm, so there probably weren’t many suitable staff available. Finally, the staff told us that there was nothing they could do, and – after receiving a free ticket as compensation – I headed home feeling cheated and extremely cheesed off. Luckily, this was eased by being able to watch the ending online this morning, hence why I feel able to write this review.
So, technical mishaps aside, what about the film itself? Well, as I’ve just said, it’s a cracker.
The main characters are two Japanese high school students: Mitsuha, who lives in the rural lakeside town of Itomori, and Taki, who lives in Tokyo. They don’t know each other, yet they inexplicably find themselves switching bodies at random while they are asleep. Every time, each of them spends the day in the other’s body and life, then wakes up the next morning with no idea what their body has just been up to. What follows is an enjoyable Freaky Friday-esque comedy as Taki and Mitsuha gradually become accustomed to this peculiarity, leaving each other notes of what they’ve been doing, and trying to be a positive influence on each other’s lives.
It’s cleverly written, and leads to some very funny moments, such as our protagonists exploring the anatomical differences when they become a member of the opposite sex, or Mitsuha confusing Taki’s friends by using feminine pronouns. (I wonder how that joke gets handled in the dubbed version.) But it’s not just funny: it’s engaging in a gentle way, as we see Taki and Mitsuha getting to know each other’s communities and local cultures – particularly Mitsuha, who is dissatisfied with her limited small-town life. And of course, they get to know each other too.
But that is not all there is to the film. Without spoiling anything, there is a big twist about halfway through – and from then on, the story takes a far more dramatic turn. With the gentler first half having done such a good job in making me feel for the two main characters and their relationship, I was extremely invested at this point, and desperate for the problems they face to be overcome. As the story progresses, it manages to be tense, heart-wrenching, and in the end, satisfying.
And it’s a visually beautiful film too. The two central environments of Tokyo and Itomori appropriately look very different, but are both bright, colourful and appealing in their own ways. There’s some particularly spectacular moments of animation, such as the sight of a comet in the sky, and a surreal sequence done in pastel-style. I definitely understood the appeal of seeing this film on the big screen, and I’m glad I did so: despite the film being animation rather than live-action, the visuals and sound effects made me feel really immersed in the world that it created, particularly in the night-time Itomori scenes.
Your Name is a unique, remarkable film that I highly recommend – in fact, rather like when I watched Lost in Translation, it’s made me want to visit Japan. Rating: 4.5/5.