Monday, 2 January 2017

Your Name Film Review

My younger teenage son and I saw Your Name in Japanese with subtitles just before Christmas. At the end of the screening, we were both left with the feeling that here was a film that we wanted to see again - and again. Your Name is already a massive Japanese box office hit. This film transcends international borders - something many films find difficult. Although  it was not nominated for 2017, Your Name deserves an Oscar and every international film award going in my view. It's outstanding.

Adjusting to your new body as a teenager is tough. It's even harder if you find yourself changing gender, your normal environment and time. Body transfer is a familiar subject to Hollywood. Your Name is a Japanese animation that explores the theme of teenage awkwardness and embarrassment with affectionate humour. 

Your Name is a well-rounded story. The age-old body transfer fantasy is refreshed with numerous other story threads. It shows the small town girl in the big city; the big town boy in the country. It demonstrates the value of teenage friendships. It explores differences and tensions between the generations. It contrasts modern technological Japan with its ancient traditions and beliefs. It shows parental loss and estrangement. There is time travel - albeit just three years' difference. The early humour of the younger sister exasperated with her elder sister Mitsuha suddenly transforms the story into a drama with a race against time and authority. Taki discovers both sisters' names on the list of deceased for the future comet strike. And at the end, we discover that we were watching a romance all along.

Mobile phones are an integral part of the plot. As the two main protagonists adjust to their random body transfers, they leave each other notes on their respective mobiles. They 'interfere' in each others' lives. Taki helps Mitsuha at school; Mitsuha sets Taki up with a date with his crush. Much of the film's humour is conveyed by the mobile phones. Laughter rippled around the cinema in waves. There was a time-delay between those who understood the Japanese and those who were reading the subtitles. I sometimes looked in the wrong place for the mobile translations and missed some elements. I would very much like to see the English version of the film to fully appreciate all the humour.

The animation is so outstanding that you forget that you are watching an animated film. It is as if a cameraman is at work with different angles. The animation of Tokyo, the country landscape, natural disaster, the light and the changing sky are breathtaking in their detail. Your Name is undoubtedly the work of a master craftsman.

After watching the film I became more aware of the international response. Your Name became the highest-grossing Japanese film in China in December 2016. Given the long-standing tensions between Japan and China, any art form that brings the young people of different nations to a closer understanding deserves international recognition as well as box office success. In our own household, it is not often that both mother and son give a film the same equally high rating.

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