TL;DR – A fascinating look back to the power that a home can have over us, more than just four walls and a roof.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this film.
Drifting Home Review –
At the end of last year, I realised that I had not watched enough animated films in 2021 and that needed to change in 2022. I think I succeeded on that front, but when I looked back, I realised that there was one hole in that catchup, Anime. Today I start fixing that blind spot by diving into a film full of mystery.
So to set the scene, in town in Japan at the onset of summer, there is an apparently haunted apartment block about to be torn down. While the old building is being removed to put something better, it is still considered ‘home’ for Natsume Touchi (Asami Seto) and Kosuke Kumagai (Mutsumi Tamura), who grew up there. However, since they moved out, the two have drifted apart as they went through separate lives. One day before they tear down the buildings, Kosuke and a group of boys visit one of the buildings and find Natsume hiding in their old apartment. As more school students show up, a concern about a mysterious boy called Noppo (Ayumu Murase), whom no one has met before but who lives in the building, raises the tension. It is all the building blocks for an argument between Natsume and Kosuke that had been percolating for months. As the two fight, Natsume slips off the roof, but before she hits the ground, a storm envelops the apartments, and the group finds themselves in the middle of the ocean, all alone.
Drifting Home is a film about two different tensions interacting with each other. The first is the clear and present danger of all the kids alone in the middle of the ocean. There is some food and water, but not enough to last them long. They are not catching any fish, and there are only so many instant ramen cups. Then there is the emotional tension between Natsume and Kosuke around the life of Kosuke’s grandpa Yasuji Kumagaya (Bin Shimada). There is clearly some past issue that both of them are not ready to confront, as kids are likely to do. These twin tensions create the groundwork for a successful mystery.
Another strength of the film is its setting because it has a unique visual style and provides the perfect place to work through issues. A single apartment building in the middle of the ocean is a juxtaposition of safety and danger, and then there is the striking way the buildings feel both lived in and abandoned. There is a level of detail that feels perfect in this word: you need to ground yourself in a world that is not real. This is captured in an animation style that fits a story that has to feel both grounded but also a bit mystical. It also allows all the students to confront their own demons because what else are they going to do? Go fishing for buildings, well, yes, of course that, but also focus on your demons.
While the story is compelling, unfortunately, it just missed connecting with me on an emotional level for the entire run except for the last few moments. I think part of that the performances were taken to eleven in critical places where a more reserved tone would have been more impactful. While all characters go through an arc, and you know going into it that they are young and are working with that level of emotional maturity. They always seem to reset back in ways that don’t feel authentic to the narrative, which pulled me out of the story in places where the film needed to you commit. This could have derailed the movie if the setting and characters had not been as strong as they were. Instead, it is just a minor frustration.
In the end, do we recommend Drifting Home? Yes, we would. There is a connection to our pasts that the film nails, the power and curse of nostalgia. How do we reconcile past mistakes, and how do we go forward with that knowledge? Also, there is the power that home can have on the soul. If you liked Drifting Home, I would recommend to you Weathering with You.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Drifting Home
Directed by – Hiroyasu Ishida
Written by – Hiroyasu Ishida & Hayashi Mori
Music by – Umitarô Abe
Production/Distribution Companies – Studio Colorido Co., Twin Engine & Netflix
Japanese Cast – Daiki Yamashita, Kana Hanazawa, Mutsumi Tamura, Ayumu Murase, Inori Minase, Nana Mizuki, Asami Seto, Bin Shimada & Yumiko Kobayashi
English Cast – Cassandra Morris, Bryce Papenbrook, Alex Cazares, Ben Diskin, Cherami Leigh, Abby Trott, John DiMaggio, Eliot Fletcher, Kari Wahlgren & Kate Higgins
Rating – Australia: M;