TIFF ‘19: Teen Romance Meets Climate Change in ‘Weathering With You’

In the follow-up to his wildly successful animated film, Your Name, Makoto Shinkai has written another whimsical teen romance in Weathering With You. It is about a boy and a girl who meet in a rain-filled Tokyo, where the weather has become wildly unpredictable. While his message about climate change is questionable at best, Shinkai still crafts a beautiful story about young love, found family, and struggling to discover who you truly are.

Hodaka Morishima is a 16-year-old high school student who has run away from home in pursuit of a better, less stifled life in Tokyo. However, he soon discovers that life in the big city isn’t so easy. As he goes days without eating, he tirelessly applies for jobs. He finally gets one as an office assistant as a local publishing company, run by a man and his one reporter. Hodaka copy edits, answers emails, cooks meals, everything one could possibly fathom. Then, he starts helping with a story about sunshine girls, or girls who are blessed with the ability to stop the rain.

Through his research, he meets Hina Amano, an orphan who is caring for herself and her brother after the death of their mother. He discovers that she can, in fact, manipulate the weather, bringing sunshine in a seemingly endless deluge of rain. He, Hina, and her little brother make a small business out of it, selling Hina’s services to those who want just a bit of sunshine on their special days. In the process, Hodaka begins to fall in love with the sunshine girl. But, their romance won’t be easy. The constant manipulation of weather has consequences, not on Earth, but on Hina.

Weathering With You is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Water is notoriously hard to animate, so Shinkai has accomplished something of beauty, and he knows it. Close-ups of raindrops hitting the concrete linger for seconds too long, letting the audience relish in the simplicity and beauty of the rain. But Shinkai goes the extra mile, creating fish and other giant creatures made up of water that float through the sky. These water beings are shades of iridescent blues and purples, ethereal beings that feel fragile. Their water-based forms are malleable, shifting with every frame, but never losing the sense of absolute wonder that they instill in the viewer.

The first part of the film’s story will resonate with younger generations, including myself, a recently-graduated Masters student desperately searching for a job. Hodaka’s struggles to make ends meet and his realization that his budget isn’t going to cut it, even on his daily meals of instant noodles, are painfully realistic. Shinkai captures those feelings of desperation and struggle even in a film meant for young audiences. It makes Weathering With You all the more powerful, especially when Hodaka is able to find a family of his own with the publishing company and Hina.

The film’s biggest misstep, though, is what it wants to say about climate change. In Tokyo, it won’t stop raining. Day after day the rain falls and it gets unseasonably cold. It even gets to the point that parts of the city are completely submerged in water. Everyone’s way of life is changed forever. However, the cause is just that: rain. There is no commentary about how humans could be responsible for such an event. Instead, it is explained as just another one of Earth’s cycles, a natural event that cannot be avoided. While the Earth does go through climate cycles, Shinkai’s film seems to be denying that many of the world’s problems with rising sea levels are caused by man. Instead, he opts for a naively optimistic message that humans can adapt to anything. 

Weathering With You is a beautiful and sweet film about two lonely teenagers finding comfort and solace in one another. They spread joy with Hina’s abilities and are able to make people happy, even if just for a few minutes. However, Shinkai’s message about climate change does the film a disservice and clouds its beauty. While Weathering With You is a gorgeously-animated film with a big heart, it leans into its optimistic messaging about the state of the world a little too hard. Regardless of its iffy politics, fans of Your Name will fall in love with Weathering With You, the couple at the heart of its story, and Shinkai’s knack for breathtaking animation. 

You may check out the rest of our TIFF ’19 coverage here.

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