Weathering with You ★★★

Shinkai Makoto, the fiercely idiosyncratic anime filmmaker whose long-simmering career exploded into legend when “Your Name” became an international phenomenon in 2016, has always been infatuated with the environment. The likes of “5 Centimeters per Second” and “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” may not express the same ecological concern that courses through Studio Ghibli’s work, but few movies of any kind have ever devoted more energy to — or divested more emotion from — the worlds around their characters. From unknown alien planets to rural Japanese footpaths, Shinkai’s backdrops are so lush, saturated, and ephemeral that the space between characters is best measured by heartache. And that heartache always rises, lifting our eyes towards the heavens like the light from a distant star. If Miyazaki is obsessed with airplanes, Shinkai is compelled by the sky.

Shinkai has never been known to shy away from his favorite subjects, and so it was always just a matter of time before he looked up from his desk and decided to make a film that’s literally just about the sky — a film that elevates the environment into a character of its own. Already a massive hit in its native Japan (as well as the country’s official submission for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars), “Weathering with You” is nothing if not that film; from the very first moment of this stunningly beautiful, emotionally diluted metropolitan epic, the clouds are more than just a force of nature. They’re a portal, they’re a punishment, they’re what brings people together and keeps them apart. Here, the clouds are more intimately connected to human life than even the most extreme environmentalists would argue.

Of course, Shinkai fans know better than to expect him to make a clear, didactic parable about climate change; his stories tend to begin in a literal mode before the strain of distance pulls them apart at the seams, and narrative logic is sublimated into the stuff of pure feeling. “Weathering with You” is no exception. This may be a thoroughly modern fable about volatile storms and a young girl who has the power to stop the rain, but — for better or worse — it’s too soaked in raw teenage emotions to puddle into a simple tale about how we need to treat the Earth like we have a crush on it.

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