Your Name.

Your Name. ★★★★½

Ever since its release in 2016, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. has been enjoying consistent praise from critics and the audiences alike. This has naturally translated to the film’s massive success at the box office as it is now among the highest grossing and best-reviewed animations of all time. And it is hard not to see why.

Admittedly, it is impossible to discuss this film without divulging critical elements of the story, some of which are pivotal in generating such a powerful response in the viewer; therefore, even though I typically try to tiptoe around such details, I think it best if one refrains from reading anything concerning this movie before watching it.

It took me a while to figure out why Your Name. is such an effortlessly compelling experience, but I think it ultimately comes down to its narrative design and the preeminent aspiration of the story to sneak up on the viewer, which it does on multiple occasions – each time with stunning effects.

At first, the film drops you at the deep end of the pool, in media res, and asks you to play a little game of catch-up with the intrigue as it builds a foundation of an archetypal romantic comedy with a well-worn body-swap gimmick dating back to such 70’s and 80’s strange romps as Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, or Big; of course, this is but a variation of an even older archetype exploited heavily in the Golden Age screwball comedies. In any case, what I am trying to articulate so clumsily is that Your Name. from its very opening frame presents itself as a veritable shapeshifter that fluidly transmogrifies and jumps between a multitude of genre templates, from a prototypical rom-com, to a coming-of-age comedy, to a modern incarnation of a screwball, all permeated with a distinct aroma of high concept fantasy. But where the moment where the film really spreads its wings and takes flight comes smack in the middle when we are told that the two main characters, Taki and Mitsuha, whom we have been observing as they engaged in cute to-and-fro without ever meeting in person, were separating by more than geographical distance. That’s because this saccharine coming-of-age rom-com with a subtle element of fantasy unveils new modalities and transforms into a high stakes action thriller intermixed with a poetic love story about two people who are seemingly not meant to meet one another.

But what’s really the key to understanding the strength of this film lies in the sole realization that while this massive shift in the narrative dividing the film into two distinct parts is happening, neither of its templates end up shifted to the background and instead they are all carefully folded into a completely homogeneous Kaufman-esque mind-bender that tips its hat to Being John Malkovich without necessarily kneeling in an act of thematic vassalage to this timeless classic. Instead, Your Name. becomes a synthesis of its inspirations, from classic comedies to genre-bending works of Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, that retains its own unique voice. It is a great example of a cerebral love story that finds great balance between humour, intellectual stimulation and poetic elevation, all encased in a format of meticulously executed and lush animation.

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