I’m at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, so I thought I’d post some mini reviews of the movies I’ve seen so far. I’m breaking up the posts by the days on which I watched the movies. Descriptions by/from TIFF.net. Reviews are my own rambling opinions.
An old tale taken from Japan’s ancient Shinto myths and projected onto a bleak near-future of floods, pollution, and global warming, Weathering With You follows the difficult lives of a runaway and a lonely girl who has recently lost her mother.
Sixteen-year-old Hodaka arrives penniless in rainy Tokyo and finds shelter and employment with Suga, a detective who runs a sketchy occult magazine. Working on the urban legends column, Hodaka is asked to track down a rumoured hare onna, or “clear-weather woman,” someone with the magical powers to part the clouds and let bright rays of sunlight shine through. His investigation leads him to Hina, the kind-hearted, gentle girl who works at a burger shop and offered him food when he was starving. Hina has the power to control the sky — a gift that could bring unexpected wealth in a perpetually wet and overcast city like Tokyo.
(Full disclosure: I dozed off during the first 10-15 minutes of this movie. I’d had one and a half drinks during the day, and the lure of a dark theater was too much for me to handle. I managed to snap out of it and stay awake for the rest of the movie, though.) I loved the animation style, and the story was interesting, rooted in the urban legend of the sunshine girls (and boys). I genuinely cared about Hodaka and Hina, as well as the supporting characters, particularly Hina’s younger brother, Nagi, a pint-sized lothario. The movie had a good balance of realism, fantastical elements, and humor.
Worth seeing in a theater?
Yes. The attention to detail in this anime film is amazing. The story is made richer for it, so it deserves the big-screen treatment.
Wiebke (the ever-dynamic Nina Hoss, also at TIFF in Ina Weisse’s The Audition) is a horse trainer and adoptive mother to Nicolina (Adelia-Constance Giovanni Ocleppo). The two share a strong bond and live an idyllic life in the countryside. Together they plan on expanding their family to include Raya (Katerina Lipovska) and travel to the young girl’s native Bulgaria to bring her home.
Shortly after that trip, Wiebke learns that her new daughter suffers from an attachment disorder and cannot build emotional connections to those around her — further, she begins exhibiting shocking behaviour and grows increasingly violent, claiming her actions are motivated by the provocation of a dark spirit. After a specialist explains that Raya will have lifelong issues and does not feel empathy, Wiebke must decide whether she is willing to keep her new child and simultaneously risk Nicolina’s safety.
I found this movie interesting, but it didn’t rock my world. I found Raya unsympathetic enough that I didn’t want Wiebke to try and “fix” her. That said, young Katerina Lipovska is an amazing child actor, particularly for one so young. Other movies have tried and done better with the “evil” child aspect of this story.
Worth seeing in a theater?
No. It’s interesting enough to hold your attention, but wait until it’s streaming online.