Today’s review is short, because this film is pretty short! XD Created by the same director who orchestrated the gorgeous The Garden of Words, 5 Centimeters Per Second is artistically gorgeous film about distance, love, and loss. I’ve heard this film mentioned a lot; many people love it, many people are confused by it, everyone admits the animation is stellar. And now I’ve seen it for myself.
5 Centimeters Per Second
Drama | Romance | Slice-of-life
2007 | 62 minutes | PG
This film is broken up into three parts–three shorts, you might say–which can easily make the film feel disjointed…well, which it sort of is? However, it didn’t hinder my enjoyment that much. I’m going to review each part separately and then make a statement on it as a whole, though, just so I don’t get lost.
Act One: Cheery Blossom
This first part follows a 13 year old boy as he rides a train far, far away to re-meet his friend who’d moved away, as they’d kept in contact through letters. Their story is slowly revealed as he remembers falling cheery blossoms and clutches her letter at the train station.
This was beautiful. I love the stories where we see characters in a completely different light at the end then how we did at the beginning, and that’s what this first part does. The story is delicately told through the boy’s voice and recollections, which I really liked.
I found myself completely caught up in the journey into the country, the animation beautifully communicating a large scary world that seemed to slowly close in on the boy. This was worked by lots of close up shots of objects, little details, and head shots. Even though distance was a large piece of the problem, it was a suffocating distance that slowly built till I was on the edge of my seat. Overall, this was a great start!
Act Two: Cosmonaut
In the second part, the story moves a few years into the future switches perspectives to a brand new character. We get a more light yet no less engaging perspective of an indecisive high school girl who has a silent crush on our protagonist from the first short.
Now, if Cheery Blossom focused in on the minute details, Cosmonaut was all about capturing the vastness of the universe and the distance that it fills. There are so many stunning night sky shots, where the universe seems to leave the screen and literally swallow you in its depth. This fits perfectly with the girl’s perspective of not really being seen and distance.
This part of the story, though gorgeous and beautiful narrated on its own, does feel off after the first part, as the narrative switches perspectives and we’re left guessing for a while if these are the same characters are not. However, if you can get past this problem, it is stunning and well worth your time simply for the eye-candy animation. I would strongly suggest watching this film on a large TV if possible, so that this part of the film is especially effective.
Finale: 5 Centimeters Per Second
The final part goes further into the future and we see the first two children from the beginning as adults going about their separate lives. This is where I was a little confused, as the Second Act narrator, the second girl, was no longer there. While that was confusing, the film on a whole still strongly communicated the tragic-ness of lost love and distance.
I don’t know if you’ve picked up on that or not, but distance is the key word for this film. I was really touched by the perspective of distance and loosing people and being looked past, being suffocated and swallowed at the same time. I have lost a lot of people in my life, mostly for reasons far out of my control, and many good friends have disappeared in the horizon…. opportunities missed, prospective futures blurred and gone, holes forming in the heart by their absence.
I connected with the atmospheres and overall look at distance that the film focused on and felt it’s relevance in my own life. I think that was the film’s main goal–instead of presenting a traditional story that was easy to follow, it took “distance” and managed to capture it in a collection of shorts that somehow touched on each other. It was nice to see these emotions evoked through story and animation.
This film, no matter how disjointed it feels, is still one of those grand reasons why I love animation. It can take my thoughts and heartaches and then demonstrates them beautifully in ways I can’t even put into words. I highly recommend viewing this at least once in your life, even just for the animation alone. But if you’ve ever had experience with distance between friends or feeling distance between yourself and someone you like, you’ll really connect with emotional tone, too.
Star Rating: 4.5/5 | Rewatchability: High | Definition: The speed which a sakura blossom falls…