Suzume (2022)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Makoto Shinkai
Run Time
2 hours and 2 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4.5 out of 5





Director/writerand his team of animators provide a mythological interpretation for the hundreds of earthquake tremors Japan suffers each year—and particularly for the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. This beautifully animated adventure tale is a good one for families with middle school children.

On the large island of Kyushu in southern Japan Suzume Iwato, a 17-year-old high-school junior, lives with her aunt Tamaki (Eri Fukatsu). Tamaki is a bit overly protective, probably due to the girl’s mother having died a few years before in the Tohoku Earthquake. One day on her way to school Suzume meets a long-haired youth named Souta (Hokuto Matsumura), who mysteriously says he is looking for a door. The girl is so intrigued that all thoughts of school are banished. Instead, she turns around to search of the young man and the door. She finds herself in the old ruins of a bath house in an abandoned village. And yes, there in the middle of the bath house shallow pool is the door.

There follows a series of encounters with doors that takes the girl on trips all over Japan. It seems that—well, I won’t try to summarize the complicated plot, except to say that it involves a mysterious cat that transforms poor Souta into a three-legged chair, and that the chair is tied in with Suzume’s mother—she made the chair for her daughter many years before. Daughter and chair struggle to close various doors before a huge red worm can fully emerge and set off earthquakes. The mischievous cat seems to enjoy opening the doors, with the unusual duo following it and struggling to close one door after another. Suzume meets various good people along the way who offer her shelter and assistance, so we can see the film asserting a Capraesque view of the common people.

Most of all, the film depicts a young girl still under the dark cloud of losing her beloved mother all too soon and, as she comes of age, still struggling to overcome her grief. Aunt Tamaki also figures importantly in the story. Worried when her charge did not return home from school, she is able to communicate with her by phone, sending advice in her attempt to get the girl to come back. As the adventure progresses, she sets out to join her niece. There is a poignant scene between the two when Tamaki admits to resenting being forced to give up her own personal life in order to raise Suzume, something we rarely see in a whimsical animated film.

The drawings are often spectacular in their beauty, little details of buildings in cityscapes and of trees and such in landscapes catching the eye. Many of the frames could be framed and hung in a gallery or a home.

Young viewers will find their horizons broadened as they follow the characters up and down the length of Japan. The film provides adults an opportunity to talk with children about loss and the assurance that there are those close by—in the family or even strangers–who will provide care when we are in need.

This review is in the May issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

Toho Co, Crunchyroll, Sony Pictures Entertainment


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