Drifting Home (2022) Netflix Review & Ending, Explained – Do the kids manage to return home?
Drifting Home (2022) Netflix Review & Ending, Explained: Over the years, Studio Ghibli has cemented its place in global cinema with its charmingly imaginative animated films. It has churned out several masterpieces that gave the children’s fantasy a living and breathing world. While being produced by Studio Colorido, ‘Drifting Home’ follows a similar fantastical world to that of Studio Ghibli, where children’s feelings are given a canvas to be explored. Released simultaneously in Japanese theaters and on Netflix, this new anime film is a delightful ride through the wealthy inner worlds of kids.
Drifting Home (2022) Netflix Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
The film follows the journey of Natsume and Kosuke, two sixth graders who get caught up in a strange adventure with their friends. But before delving into that, it sets up the emotional foundation of its characters. We see Natsume waking up in an apartment and wondering what she’ll do with her free time over the summer vacation. But it appears like she is in a building that has been abandoned for a while. At school, Kosuke is caught up choosing between two options – to spend his summer vacation going to Florida with Reina and her family or to go and look into the abandoned building with his friends Taishi & Yuzuru.
From his conversation with his mother, we learn that he and Natsume had a really close relationship like siblings. But their old building having been abandoned results in them distancing apart. Now, they are having a hard time reconnecting. While he ends up with Taishi & Yuzuru at the abandoned building, they look for a ghost they had heard being present there. In their pursuit, they find Natsume quietly napping. They get surprised to see her there; likewise, she gets shocked seeing them. She explains that she came there once in a while and that a friend of hers lives there, named Noppo.
While they follow her looking for him, they reach the terrace and marvel at the breathtaking view. That’s when Reina and her group of friends pass by and see them playing there. Since she considers Kosuke (whom she was infatuated with), she goes there, and her friend Juri follows her. Kosuke seems frustrated that Natsume still can’t get over the loss of the place they spent their childhoods in. He also finds his grandfather’s camera with her, which adds to his frustration. Seeing an argument between them, Reina thinks that Natsume is bothering him. She goes on to fight for him, and in the eventual tussle between them, Natsume falls from the building.
While Kosuke tries to help save her by pulling her, he becomes unsuccessful. She eventually falls down but then suddenly, something strange happens. They find themselves and the building caught between a pool of ocean, with nothing else in sight. Being stuck there, they try to look for any possible ways to survive. Natsume shows her stash of juices and snacks she had saved over some time. Eventually, they also meet the mysterious Noppo, the ghost. During their conversations, Natsume reveals that this strange thing has happened to her before. But they turned out to be dreams, and she was back in the real world when she woke up afterward. This particular instance turns out to be different since they’re still stuck there.
Soon, they run out of food. That’s when Kozuke & Natsume see an apartment building from their childhood floating nearby. They go there to get supplies and find some time to have a conversation and reconnect. Natsume gives Kosuke the camera and tells him that she and his grandfather – Yasuji- had planned to gift him for his birthday. That wish went unfulfilled since the grandfather died before they could do so. We also see a scene that drifts the two emotionally apart. When they both go to meet the deceased Yasuji, Kozuke mentions that Natsume shouldn’t worry since he isn’t her grandfather. It hurt her feelings since she always considered them to be his family.
Meanwhile, the friends notice a growth of vegetation on Noppo’s arm that spooks them. He mentions that he has been a part of the apartment since it was created. Later, Kozuke & Natsume see a department store floating in the waters and decide to enter it with Noppo. While they are scouring through this store, Natsume finds stuffed toys that take her back to her troubled childhood with bickering parents. Meanwhile, their apartment starts colliding with the store, and they decide to return to their home base. They see Juri dangling from the building. Natsume decides to help her, and then Kozuke does. In a later attempt to save them, Noppo loses his foot.
Later, Natsume mentions her solid emotional bond with Yasuji while he was alive and how his death made her miserable. Her decision to return to the apartment was due to the same feelings towards a place that gave her a feeling of home. She also mentions how she didn’t like the stuffed toy Yasuji gave her at first, but due to the joyous memories from afterward, she now holds it dear. Meanwhile, Noppo reveals that he has watched over both Natsume and Kosuke since they were little kids. He also mentions that they were not supposed to be stuck in the middle of the ocean and that he accidentally transported all of them. He suggests they leave but stays back himself. Natsume doesn’t like leaving him there.
When all the friends start to drift away, she gets back into the sea and returns to the apartment to give him company despite her friends telling her not to do so. All of them find hope in returning to their homes and meeting their families, but Kozuke finds it pointless to return without Natsume. He gets emotional with the same thought.
Drifting Home (2022) Netflix Review:
A charming coming-of-age film bogged down by its jarring tonal shifts
Directed by Hirayashu Ishida, ‘Drifting Home’ is filled with the genre elements of magic realism. Whether what the kids witness is just their dream or an actual manifestation of their feelings and desires, it can’t be denied that the film keeps the element of fantasy intact. That is what gives it an instant charm since it keeps a childlike wonderment consistent throughout its duration. This aspect sustains the emotional gravitas for the most part. The relationship between the two leads, Natsume and Kozuke, becomes the crux of the adventure and the emotional potency stays afloat due to their hopes of reconnecting.
The film attempts to tackle heavier issues that the characters are dealing with. The creators tackle the idea of a family beyond a biological one with the required sensitivity. It results in a heartwarming rendition of characters finding emotional connections in places beyond the obvious ones. Using Noppo and other characters as manifestations of souls or spirits of the architecture seems like a great creative decision since it makes their interpersonal dialogue a reality. We all have places we feel nostalgic about and have strong memories attached to as kids and as adults. The film tackles such relation head front and speaks about the need for growth.
The film becomes a coming-of-age tale for all its characters to grow out of their selves before the storm and become more evolved versions of themselves. While it’s a charming attempt at doing so, it falls short due to its focus being more on building the obstacles that come in their way than the emotional struggles they go through. Their heartfelt monologues often get sidetracked since more attention is given to building thrill in their whirlwind-like adventure. The tonal shifts between the two often feel jarring, and the introduction of different elements occasionally seems far-fetched even in its scope.
Drifting Home sometimes feels more like a survival thriller than a fantasy drama involving kids. If all the fantastical elements were supposed to be narrative tools to bring their emotional struggles to the forefront, the film seems to have missed the point on that aspect. Instead of developing these obstacles, the film would have made a more profound impact if it had focused on developing the characters on a deeper level besides just Kozuke’s. Since the film has its heart in the right place, it manages to create an emotional experience, although not a lasting one.
Drifting Home (2022) Netflix Ending, Explained:
Do the kids manage to return home?
Noppo feels guilty for having Natsume stuck with him when he only wishes to see her happy. While they speak about the same, they see a Ferris wheel floating in their direction with all their friends attempting to save her. Kozuke goes to the building to rescue her, but she still doesn’t want to leave the place. He gets emotional and starts confessing how he and his mother consider her a family and wants her to be him more than Noppo does. Meanwhile, the thread that connects them to the end from the Ferris wheel starts breaking, and all the friends try their best to keep it in control. In the end, it breaks down, drifting them apart.
While the waves start crushing their building and floating them recklessly to the other side, they do not lose spirit and keep up their attempts to help one another. Noppo musters all his strength to save the two, and then they magically get out of that terrifying storm. They reconnect with their other friends stuck with the Ferris wheel. Over there, Reina gets emotional and shares her feelings about the ride she had as a kid with her father. Soon after Natsume says her final goodbye to Noppo (and to her past associated with the abandoned building), they return to reality. She reconnects with her mother, who apologizes to her. Meanwhile, the building gets demolished, and they leave behind the memories of the place to head to the future.