Weathering With You is another beautifully creative romantic fantasy from director Makoto Shinkai, who was responsible for 2016 hit, Your Name. I only recently watched Your Name, and to say that it blew me away would be an understatement – it’s a movie I still think about to this day. So, I headed into Weathering With You, perhaps a little unfairly, with some pretty high expectations. Consequently, I came away a little disappointed. But that’s not to say that this isn’t a great movie.
As with Your Name, one of the core themes behind Weathering With You is the pursuit of true love and it begins by introducing our teen protagonists before they’ve had a chance to meet. In rain-soaked Tokyo, Hina is attracted to a beam of sunlight that is cutting through the clouds across town, and she rushes off to try and get a closer look. Running up flights of stairs to a building rooftop, she comes across a simple shrine at the spot where the sunlight hits the Earth. Praying hard, she steps slowly through the shrine gate and the rain stops. We then see Hina falling through the sky, observing beautiful, magical weather all around her.
Hodaka is a 16 year old runaway, traveling by ferry boat to Tokyo. While standing out on deck during a powerful storm, flooding almost sends him overboard, but he is rescued by Mr Suga, a magazine publisher who ends up giving him his business card. After arriving in Tokyo and struggling to find work, Hodaka eventually calls upon Mr Suga, who gives him a job. The heavy rain that almost cost Hodaka his life has been persisting for some time now, despite being the middle of summer, and long range forecasts are predicting no real change for the foreseeable future. Storms are also leaving behind fish-like objects and a strange jelly substance, which is leaving experts baffled.
Hodaka first encounters Hina in the McDonalds where she is working, then later on Hodaka rescues Hina from what he believes to be a dangerous situation and the pair find themselves becoming friends. Through his reporting work at the magazine run by Mr Suga, Hodaka had been investigating the mythical “Weather Maidens”, and he discovers that Hina is one of them, with the ability to bring about sunshine through prayer. With Hina and Hodaka both in desperate need of money, they go into business together, taking requests online from people wanting rain-free occasions, such as family picnics or weddings and earning Hina the name “Sunshine Girl”. The power of a weather maiden comes at a cost though, as they eventually become a human sacrifice to the skies, with each use of their power bringing that moment one step closer.
The larger premise of Weathering With You is obviously climate change – how messing with nature always comes at a cost and how children have real power to influence change. Visually, the movie is simply stunning, and animated rainfall has never looked so beautiful. It’s also peppered with a rather distracting and cheesy J-Pop score, made all the worse if you try and follow the on-screen lyrics, which obviously do not have the same impact when translated literally. Sadly, there are far too many plot threads presented throughout without any clarity or resolution and overall the whole thing just felt too long. Admittedly, it was a pretty high bar set by Your Name, but unfortunately Weathering With You doesn’t have the emotional weight to meet that, with a narrative that isn’t as complex or as engaging.