Monday Movie: 5 Centimetres Per Second

As a thick snowstorm closes in, the young Takaki embarks on an unexpectedly difficult journey to reach his erstwhile schoolmate, long-time pen pal and potential soul mate Akari. When he does eventually reach her, it's a moment of profound romance and intimacy that will overshadow every subsequent relationship he has.

Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimetres per Second is a sixty minute character study told in three parts, charting Takaki's single perfect moment with Akari, and his inability to recapture the electricity of a love that arguably never really happened outside his head in the first place. The monologue voice-overs that accompany the story are over-earnest, but everything else about the film shows surprising restraint for a portrait of adolescent love. The spoken dialogue is natural, and the ambient sounds blend perfectly with visuals that are simply exquisitely gorgeous. The colours, lighting effects and level of background detail are almost overwhelmingly sumptuous.

My favourite of the three chapters is definitely the second one, in which the monologues are pushed to the back seat and we're introduced to Kanae, an adorably shy and indecisive girl with a terminal crush on Takaki. Compared to the barefaced angst on display in Takaki's two chapters, Kanae's story presents the heartbreak of unrequited love as something almost brave and honourable.

Although 5 Centimetres per Second may stumble, it does so on the road to being a perfect little movie. I definitely understand why Shinkai is seen by many as the next big thing in Japanese animation.

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