5 centimeters per second
- Suhavi Dhillon
5 centimeters per second does a wonderful job of encapsulating longing and love in a way that is painfully realistic. In what is an essentially plot-less movie, the audience is able to enter the mind of our main character, Takaki, as he starts off as a naive boy and grows up to be a disillusioned man.
The first part, “Cherry Blossom Story,” takes us through moments in Takaki’s childhood as he befriends a new student: Akari. They bond over their rather nerdy tendencies and spend time together in the library away from their classmates. Takaki’s idealistic relationship with Akari halts as he receives a call from Akari and she tells him she’s moving away. They’re both evidently very upset and Takaki feels guilty for being so stuck in his own unhappiness that he can’t comfort Akari, still he isn’t able to say anything to her as he realises that there is truly nothing he can do to stop this from happening. Something about this scene was so human that it made me uncomfortable. Fortunately, they are able to keep in touch via email and the cellphone. Later on near the end of junior high, Takaki receives the news that he will be moving away to a town far away from Tokyo, Akira and him decide to meet up one last time. The day of though, the weather is terrible due to a blizzard and there are countless delays as Tataki tries to reach Akira, he feels as though an invisible force is trying to keep them apart, his belief in this only strengthens as a strong gust of wind sweeps away the letter he wrote for Akari away. By the time that he reaches, he hopes Akari has already left because of how cold it is. He finds her asleep on a seat at the station and when wakes her up, she cries as they hold hands. They share a kiss and spend the night huddled up in a tiny shack in the middle of the blizzard. In the morning though, none of this matters, Takaki still has to leave.
The second part, “Cosmonauts,” takes place in Tanegashima Island, the boy’s new home. We get a monologue from Takae, a girl in Takaki's new school, she says she fell in love with him at first sight. Throughout this part we see Takae build up the courage to confess to Takaki but in the end, when they both watch a rocket launch into far away space, she realises that while Takaki might physically be on the island, his heart and mind are someplace else so she registers her love as unrequited and does not confess to him. Simultaneously, we get to see how Takaki and Akira lose touch, the physical distance between them planting seeds of doubt in their minds. Takaki is often shown typing on his phone, as it turns out, he crafts messages but never ends up sending them. To me, this felt less like giving up and more like resigned acceptance. There is no plot armour for the main character in this movie, he does not turn superhuman and fight the villain to save his love, for there is no villain. The circumstances are simply not in his favour. Their hurdles weren’t tangible and their only options were to try to move on. Love is not always enough in a relationship.
The third part shows Tataki and Akira in their adulthood, both having dealt with their past relationship in vastly different ways. Tataki initially buries himself in work but eventually burns out and loses motivation for everything. “Even if i do nothing, sorrow gathers around me. It is everywhere around me. On my sheets, toothbrush,” he says. His failed love burdens him heavily and everything he built to try and distract himself fails: he quits his job and ends a relationship that he had gotten into three years ago and ignores her calls and she says, “We may have sent 1000 messages, but our hearts only grew one centimeter closer to each other.” While we see Tataki in an obviously extremely depressive state, we see that Akira has gotten engaged to another man. She has been able to accept that they could not work out and while she cherishes their memories, she is able to move forward, unlike Tataki. In one scene we see her going through a box of old things where she comes across a letter she never gave Tataki, coincidently the same night she dreams of being thirteen again and being with Tataki. He has the same dream and as they both cross paths on a familiar road from their childhood, he turns back around in hopes that she’ll turn as well. She does, however, before he can get a look at her face, a train rushes through the tracks and blocks his view, he waits though but by the time the train is gone, Akira is as well. This symbolized their relationship very well, there was always an invisible, unstoppable force that stopped them from being together.
The last scene I’d say confused me the most, because after seeing the empty space where Akira once stood, Tataki smiles. Is he mocking himself for waiting? Is he happy that she turned at all? Is this the final bit of closure he needs? Or is he just happy that he got to see here once again, if only for a brief second? The ambiguous ending, frustratingly, only adds to how realistic this movie is. If you watch movies to escape reality and immerse yourself in another universe, watching this movie would have been torture but if you enjoy realism, this movie would have painfully won your heart over.
The details in the backgrounds and surroundings of the characters are incredibly visually appealing for a movie from 2007 but I found it a bit weird (not a good or bad weird necessarily) because it contrasted enormously to the lackluster and simple character designs. It truly is impressive how much the movie managed to say in just one hour though. A longer story would have had me more attached to the characters and feeling way more upset than I actually did but I feel as though that wasn't the point of this movie.
And well immediately after finishing it, I didn't think there even was a point to the movie but the more I think about it, the more queasy I get because wow that could be me. So in conclusion, I will not be thinking about this anymore.