'The Place Promised in Our Early Days' - Movie Review

This is Makoto Shinkai's first feature length film - and watching it means I've watched all his features as of 2020. But I have to say ... if you haven't seen this one, you're not missing much.

His other movies mostly involve some kind of fantasy ("Garden of Words" does not): I was interested in this simply because it was the only science fiction movie he's done. It's set in a world like our own, but the northern island of Japan is a separate political entity ("the Union," per the English version of the movie I saw ... although Wikipedia claims this is the Soviet Union). Our two young middle school heroes are building themselves a plane to fly across the straight between their island and the Union so they can get close to the multi-kilometre tall tower the Union has built. Over the course of a summer, they become friends with a young woman. And then we jump forward three years. The inevitable war is approaching (between their government and the Union), and we find out their young female friend disappeared after their summer together. The second half of the movie sees their not-entirely-happy re-union and a weird conclusion to the movie (I expected nothing less from Shinkai).

The characters aren't as well drawn as his later work - both in the literal sense of their figures and faces, and in the far less literal sense of how they're written (although, as mentioned earlier, I did watch it in English translation ... always a bit dubious). But Shinkai's already clearly showing his incredible visual flair: it's spectacularly pretty.

"Your Name" is my favourite of his movies: I would recommend that over this one. This is tied with "Children Who Chase Lost Voices" as his worst work. Although, again, both are visually stunning and neither is actually a bad movie ...