SUZUME Review: A Door, A Talking Cat, A Running Chair, and You
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, the animated adventure from Japan follows a young girl on a quest to save the world.
All you need to make a movie is a running chair and talking cat. Oh, and maybe a door or two.
The film opens in movie theaters April 11 in Europe, April 13 in Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America, and April 14 in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
If you have already had the pleasure of experiencing the world of Makoto Shinkai, my review is superfluous. His new film was a smash hit in Japan upon its release in November 2022, and has met similar success upon its release in other Asian lands, starting last month. We in the rest of the world will be able to enjoy watching it in movie theaters beginning this week.
Friends began telling me about Makoto Shinkai about 20 years ago, and everything of his that I've seen since then has been marvelous and sublime. As I wrote in my review of Weathering With You (2019), his films "typically feature hopeful, fantastical, lyrical spins on romantic challenges faced by young people," which take flight into the fanciful while never losing sight of earthbound realities.
Suzume (voiced by Nanoka Hara) is a teenage girl who lives with her aunt Tamaki (Eri Fukatsu) in a seaside village. She is experiencing travails typical of a teenager when she encounters a stranger, Sota (Shôta Sometani), on the road one day in need of assistance. Wanting to be helpful, she finds herself in a lonely place that reveals itself to be something else entirely.
Soon, Suzume is chasing a running chair that is chasing a talking cat across Japan, as one does these days.
As he has in his previous films, including not only Weathering With You (2019), but also Your Name (2016), The Garden of Words (2013), 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007), The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004), and Voices of a Distant Star (2002) -- listing only the ones I've seen so far -- director Makoto Shinkai and his army of animators transform lovely locations into places of otherworldly beauty, filled with gracefully drawn people and objects, the rhythms moving with equal grace between fantasy and comedy, suspense and science fiction, unexpectedly withdrawing support without warning and then building it back again at the last moment.
The story seems to be about the fate of the universe, but it actually revolves around the people who live in it: how they survive, how they worry, how they grieve, how they laugh, how they cry. Each character is guided by their principled emotions; occasionally a gust of ill wind blows them off course, yet soon they are back on target, a girl chasing a chair chasing a cat, all to prevent the collapse of the world as we know it.
By gentle turns that appear effortless, the film swerves, swoops and swoons. We get to know Suzume, Souta, Daijin (the cat), Tamaki, and strangers who become friends, like Chika, Rumi, and Serizawa.
As a film, Suzume is very sneaky. I didn't even notice it had stolen my heart until I started to weep uncontrollably.
- Makoto Shinkai
- Makoto Shinkai
- Nanoka Hara
- Hokuto Matsumura
- Eri Fukatsu