~ thoughts on the film Your Name (2016)
In Your Name, two strangers, Mitsuha and Taki, are given over to each other’s waking lives. As in lucid dreaming, they assume control of one another’s life and body over night, on alternating schedules of an eerie agency. In doing so, they also take on partial control of their hearts and dreams, and a dual kind of fate. Modern day teens, each is old enough to know of the world and their place in it, yet also young enough to have no firmly established role, their dreams still intact and their attitudes ambitious enough to try and act on them in nascent yet tangible ways. Both wish to experience something like what the other has in their life: Mitsuha lives in the countryside, where tradition and heritage outweigh all else, but she dreams of going to the city. Taki, the city student, yearns for a change of scenery from rote examinations and to see something beautiful beyond the confines of his concrete jungle.
When they are under this strange phenomenon, in which they switch bodies and inhabit each other’s worlds every other day, time becomes of the essence. Once the shock fades and the routine of this other person — of a disparate gender and measure of responsibility to the people and occupations around them — becomes known, then Taki and Mitsuha start taking full advantage of the time they are allotted in their other body. Full attention is paid to their dream-life, new angles taken at work, new conversations with friends, and potential romances pursued. Once the ground rules are set, much more care is taken versus even their own life to be conscientious with the other’s body and time. Living as one another, they choose to seize each day selflessly, to learn, to grow, to help, for the good of the other, and document it all back their way, for them to pick up where the shared life has been left off.
Perhaps there is no better recipe for the production of conscientious empathy than the literal action of walking in another’s shoes for a few days.
One of life’s strangest quibbles, and perhaps most upsetting, is the prospect of our mind’s tendency to remember our misses, slights, and despairs and forget all the ‘good’ stuff. No matter how big or small, it seems our memory is primed to betray us with flashes of our mistakes, embarrassments, and traumas, much more so than their opposition. There are biological and social advantages to such moody consolidations. As beings wading through a harsh world, we need to be able anticipate dangers and we absolutely must recall the missteps we survive. Survival is the name of the game, and a past full of easy roads is of no use in this regard.
Even so, there is no more devastating realization than the understanding that our most cherished moments become the memories that are easiest to lose in the heat of conflict and hardship.
It is both compelling and tragic how the strange brew of Taki and Mitsuha’s shared memories become murky over time. As they grow closer and more capable of handling the trials of their life alongside that of one another’s, this is when the connection fades. So too with it do their memories. As Taki finally tracks down the locale of his mind-melding companion, still recalling all his travails in her shoes, there is the realization of her town’s destruction three years prior. With it, all her memos go from his phone and her name disappears soon after.
However, hope does appear in the development of memories beyond their minds, beyond their respective times, in their hearts.
Fate, time, love
The slow burning drama of Your Name’s narrative is the prospect of Mitsuha and Taki never being able to meet one another in person. Once the improbable stretch of time between them is revealed, they fall away from one another. There is little hope of their reunion. Presumably, Mitsuha is passed on, along with the rest of her town. Taki has been visiting the past when he’s been sharing his life with this person. The most profound moments of his life become subsumed in the assumption of a dream he and his co-workers try to help him work through an understanding of.
And yet, Taki never gives up on finding her again. They never give up on re-learning one another’s names again, against all odds, against the fates themselves. They seem to test Interstellar’s theory that love is the one thing that is capable of transcending dimensions of time and space.
The prospects are not so unbelievable for the beautifully animated world of Your Name: If two people can so thoroughly influence, change and love one another — as we see through the course of Mitsuha and Taki’s time together — then why could they not alter fate too?
The ambiguous outcome of their conscientious cooperation is a new world, changed by their lovely efforts, in which they are both present, alive and well. But it is a one where they don’t know each other anymore. They do not remember how they have touched one another’s lives. There are only remnants of their experiences together. And yet, in the end, fate binds them together with a chance meeting in the city. Mitsuha and Taki do recall the feelings, somewhere deep within, somewhere unreachable save from out of a meeting with the one responsible for engendering it there in the first place. And in the recollection at their reunion comes that fateful question that strangers ask; their respective answers will reveal them to be so much more.