It’s hard to watch this film without thinking of director Makoto Shinkai’s previous film YOUR NAME, another romance-largely-in-Tokyo film so iconic and successful that whatever he did next was bound to bring some expectations of that film with it. And in terms of the general structure and ideas at play here there is indeed a lot that’s similar, but without as strong a hook or focused a pacing as that previous film. There’s a general lack of clarity and purpose here compared to YOUR NAME, but the premise in WEATHERING WITH YOU is arguably more timely, with the third act in particular really drilling down on what large-scale, basically irreversible changes to the climate look like, and how people take it upon themselves to deal with that.
The first two acts of the film are more typical – though well-executed, charming, and very modern, populated with trendy J-pop track after track – romance. They’re a bit shaggy, with a lot of montages to stitch together the story, and there’s a real sense that a significant portion of the film could be lopped off without really losing anything. But the animation is always so eye-catching (in keeping with the concept, the film really lingers on tiny little weather effects; it’s striking) that it’s never a bad time or anything. It’s not until the third act that I’d really say the film becomes ‘interesting’ though, which really is a problem I suppose, but the generic plot and characters for most of the movie just aren’t half as unique or engaging as anything in the director’s previous film. It really is fascinating what the film says about perseverance, the human spirit, and making peace with things towards the end; I was absolutely surprised the ‘message’ it took, and wonder if it’s going to be a sort of take we’ll see more and more as the effects of climate change become pronounced enough upon the world to permeate even the makeup of romance films.
The ending could be construed as defeatist or selfish in a lot of ways, and while I don’t think in terms of the actual specifics of the film’s story that that applies, it does ring oddly in an era where meaningful change upon how the climate is changing could still be enacted. This is compounded by how the film cavorts around suggesting issues with capitalism and policing; it doesn’t strike me as something intended as apolitical. But, to pull back from that macro sense, in just the terms of learning to make peace with ‘rain’, the film certainly handled that message in a lovely way. Three and a half rain jellies, and a discarded gun.