Year: 2013 | Directed by Makoto Shinkai | Roundup Rating: A
Writing a review for a Makoto Shinkai film is like reading a poem and trying to put a box of what the emotions mean. As far as poetry is concern, it is a free flowing art form -- every word and every line represents something -- and yet it can be interpreted differently depending on the reader's point of view.
Kotonoha No Niwa (The Garden of Words) is Shinkai's latest filmic endeavor. Barely 45 minutes long, the movie tells the story of two characters separated by their 12 year age gap, but connected by the language of their soul.
I've never been a proponent of May-December relationships, with the woman holding the seniority. Although this movie never did change my opinion about that - not one bit, Shinkai's painstaking appreciation for simplicity made me fell in love with almost every element of this film. As a fan of Shinkai's ouvre you could say that he has a natural gift for transforming mundane things and ordinary places as though they were extraordinarily breathtaking and more real in their animated format. Tokyo never look so exotic. It's like how Parisians tell the world that their city looks better in the rain - and Shinkai's Tokyo gave us that same impression. He is Japan's Ernest Hemingway, but a visual poet nonetheless; he could make you feel the blow of the wind, the smell of the leaves, the taste of chocolate and beer, and the touch of one's hand just by the weave of his visual wizardry.
At this point I can finally call him an auteur. Not just an up-and-coming but a full pledged one at that. He is evidently hands on not only with the animation and the story but also with the overall soundtrack. What sealed Quentin Tarantino, Wong Kar-Wai and Alfred Hitchcock's sense of auteur-ship is their musical sense. They know how to pick the right track that would complete their movie's personality rather than the music being a separate entity. Shinkai knows that pictures and sounds remain inside our memories for a very long time, or maybe as long as we're alive, and so he uses it with such ease and profundity.
Story wise, Garden of Words is more uplifting compared to "5 Centimeters Per Second". The conclusion, albeit an open ended one, gives us a glimmer of hope for the characters to meet again in the future; that he would come after her once he had fulfilled his own dreams. Shinkai showed us that maturity is not measured by the numeral of one's age but according to one's openness to life experiences. If the running time of this movie is an hour longer the story could have expanded further in order for us to see an in depth growth and changes between the character's relationship between each other and by themselves. In spite of that I am completely satisfied with this motion picture and have come to see that Shinkai wants to impart with us that there is beauty in the ordinary every day life as long as we can keep on moving forward by living it with sheer honesty.