Darren Carver-Balsiger’s review published on Letterboxd:
SPOILERS ahead, but I would recommend reading this review regardless.
This was my own personal hell. I was actually very excited to see Weathering with You. Makoto Shinkai is a mixed director at best but his work was certainly improving over the years. Two of the friends I most trust for anime recommendations told me this was great. I even almost went to the English premiere. Boy am I glad I didn't. I hated this film. I was fine for the first fifteen minutes and then spent the remaining ninety trying not to choke on my seething anger.
Weathering with You is despicable. That is not a typo. I have absolutely no time anymore for Shinkai's work. As much as he personally seems like a really nice guy, I cannot stand his art or the mindset of it. No director alive is as talented as Shinkai whilst simultaneously squandering his talent in every single film he makes. His singleminded interest in the exact same romance story (teenage boy, cute girl) leads to his most extremely flippant work yet in Weathering with You. This is a film about child poverty, underage sex work, runaway children, and mass population displacement. Except it isn't. Every single one is treated as a quirky accessory to Shinkai's indulgent, masturbatory fantasy of the cute, powerful girl falling in love with the awkward guy who has to save her. The film *literally* ends on an affirmation that the loss of homes that belonged to millions of people was worth it for the central romance. All these very serious topics are downplayed for the sake of enacting a pathetic damsel-in-distress storyline. One sequence implies the fifteen year old female lead is being coerced to work in some kind of sketchy club. This plot point is ignored for the rest of the film (aside from a *joke* where a criminal accidentally admits to statutory rape) because its only purpose is to allow her to be saved by the male lead and start the inevitable romance story. To include this in a film only to sideline it because of some notion that love is reason enough to ignore evil, is utterly disgusting. Weathering with You is reprehensible. Full stop. Fuck this.
I have spent far too much time reviewing and criticising Shinkai's films. I once wrote the following about ways I want to see Shinkai improve as a director:
1) give his female characters dignity; 2) work with another writer, his films are always let down by the writing and not the visuals; 3) shake things up and use any sci-fi / fantasy concepts for something other than furthering a romantic plot; 4) if you're going to use faux-philosophical dialogue, make sure it matches with everything, from the visuals to the character arcs to the metaphors.
Weathering with You actually doubles down on everything I have ever disliked about a Shinkai film. His female characters still have no dignity. In Weathering with You, we get multiple gags about breasts and the plot still centres on a guy winning over the quirky, cute girl. The moment I knew I was starting to hate Weathering with You was when the female lead was introduced. It tells you everything. She turns up, drawn as if she's a model, with a cute laugh, and takes pity on our male lead. She's a stereotypical Shinkai love interest, empowered enough to appear like a proper girl, but ultimately destined to become submissive to her own love when quiet guy saves her. Just yuck.
Regarding the script, Weathering with You is an awful mess. It is contrived to fuck and has every single lame trope he has ever used. The ending is so similar to his other films (two lovers meeting years later) that it is beyond parody. He definitely needs to hire a writer. Tying into this is the wasted fantasy concept inherent to the film. If there's credit to be given though, the annoying philosophical voiceover is cut to a minimum, though it still appears on occasion.
I am not a part of the community that Weathering with You is aimed at. I do still have a fondness for anime films and every single one of my favourite animated films come from Japan. Yet watching Weathering with You with a paying audience makes me realise just how much my tastes do not align with many. I am simply not a part of this culture, and that's just how it is. All the times when people laughed at a joke or squealed when something cute happened, elicited no response from me. To me it seemed like Weathering with You was overloaded with pandering and attempts to be cute. The tacky J-pop which is thrown over so many scenes just seemed so incredibly forced. The cameos from Your Name were totally needless. I never thought I would say this, but Weathering with You is a hack movie. Shinkai has sold to his soul due to the complacency of success and pandered to the shallowest elements of art. I now no longer see him as a stunning animator. Photorealistic visuals are impressive, but they mean nothing when the film is so artless.
There was one moment in Weathering with You that I thought was really good. There was a sequence where characters fell from the sky and the emotional haze of their love all felt incredibly compelling. But the other hundred plus minutes were a complete drag. Weathering with You is really bad. Shinkai is purposefully blind to real life issues because he wants to be romantic at all costs. Weathering with You thus minimises real suffering, sexualises and fantasises a love story that has no believable start point, and panders to a vacuous and selfish view of romance.
My friend turned to me once this film ended and said "what was the point of everything?" This is the state I was left in to. What was the point of the film? Was it really just yet another exercise in Makoto Shinkai's canon of predictable and horrid romances? I think so. It has no soul, just a black void. Even though Weathering with You is not his worst film, nor even a film without merit, it is something I only have contempt for. I'm glad everyone else enjoyed it, but this was not for me.