Imagine you’ve been sick in bed then all of a sudden, your mom brings in a steaming bowl of rice porridge. The sight of steam and the scent of garlic and soup wafting from seems to act as a remedy in itself reminding you it’s time to feel better.

If that’s something you are familiar with then you’ll have a good sense of what it’s like to watch Weathering with You. It’s warm and comfortable despite feeling dreadful because nostalgia so fully realized invokes powerful memories of a better time. Such potent familiarity the reason why this latest effort by Mikoto Shinkai works so well and what holds it back.

Weathering with You has the unfortunate task of carrying the weight of being the follow-up to the immensely popular film Your Name. It’s unfair to judge a single work in relation to Shinkai’s other movies because flaws born from comparison gives a false impression of the work itself, but there is a sense that this movie isn’t quite as bold or innovative as his other movies. That being said, Weathering with You carries that weight well enough that this movie fits right alongside Your Name or any other movie he has made.

Shinkai is a singular talent with an uncanny ability to create something the audience can empathize with so completely that they get lost in his stories. It doesn’t take long to get engrossed in Weathering with You and a rain-drenched version of Tokyo that takes a familiar setting and turns it into something almost whimsical. The setting combined with the drama and emotion of a teen love story and you have the perfect vehicle for Shinkai.

Love is an enduring theme in all of Shinkai’s works where it is like a law of physics that needs to be tested and stressed in order to discover its truth. Weathering with You dips into this well through its central love story featuring Hodaka Morishima and Amano Hina. Layered on top of this teen love story is the backdrop of a rain-drenched Tokyo that hasn’t seen a sunny day in months and ends up being the cause of massive upheaval in the young couple’s lives.

The love story between Hodaka and Amano needs to work in order for this movie to go anywhere and Shinkai takes his time developing it. His patience in this area pays off because the movie does well to establish a sense of place that allows all his characters to breathe, live and grow in. You really get a sense of what it’s like to live in a Tokyo that is perpetually covered in torrential rains. Every day seems like a slog where the familiar locales and even the people look worn out and weary.

This backdrop makes Hodoka’s plight all the more harrowing. It’s hard enough being a teenage runaway trying to make it in a big city, but how depressing to be a vagrant when it’s raining all the damn time. Amano’s story is a similar one only she is forced to take care of a younger sibling after her mother dies. For two characters forced to survive by meager means, the seminal moment when they first meet at a fast food restaurant is by far one of the sweetest moments in this movie. It’s moments like this that give this movie juice and there are many throughout the that offset the drab rainy existence they live in.

Amano, of course, has a secret that changes both of their lives. It’s a supernatural power that involves bringing sunshine on demand to this perpetually stormy world. Her power becomes a means to an end for both as they discover folks will pay top dollar for such a thing, but the dark secret behind it also threatens their relationship and an entire country for that matter. How all of this resolves itself and the choices these two make are difficult ones and make for a gripping finale.

There is a message about climate change in this movie that was hinted at in the trailers and in this premise as a whole, but it’s delivered in a clunky and muddled fashion. The stories behind these girls that control the weather, how they get their powers, are all very hand wavy. They also could have and probably should have done more to make nature into more of a monster in this movie, especially given the way this ends. I came away wishing that the thematic message was as clear and well-thought-out as the love story between Amano and Hodaka. 

The entire experience of Weathering with You is ultimately like comfort food. The source of its power is just as much familiarity as taste, and this strength is also its ultimate limitation. This movie is perhaps a victim of its own success as a quintessential Shinkai movie but doesn’t quite move past that. 

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