A Silent Voice
Rating: 10 out of 10 stars
Trigger Warning: Suicide
- Deals with topics such as suicide, depression, self-hatred, and social anxiety seriously with empathy
- Good representation of a person with a disability (deafness)
- Demonstrates the challenges a deaf person may face when seeking accommodations in the classroom
- Shows the effects of bullying on mental health
- Beautiful animation and attention to detail
- A movie that truly made me feel something
- Complex, dynamic characters
- No cons I could think of.
- Shows Japanese sign language
My siblings recommended A Silent Voice to me because they said it brought them to tears. I waited a long time before I finally watched it. Sometimes I am reluctant to watch sad movies because of how strongly they make me feel. I waited until I ended up watching it with two close friends of mine, and we all enjoyed and appreciated this movie.
Some people have called this movie a romance, but that is more of a side story compared to the themes of friendship and redemption that define this movie.
It starts with high school student Shoya about to commit suicide by falling from a bridge. The only thing that snaps him out of his dire decision is the sound of fireworks. Instead of choosing death, he ends up choosing to try to fix his life and make up for what he has done.
And what has he done? Well, he bullied a deaf girl named Shoko in 6th grade incessantly until she finally moved away and transferred schools. This harassment included ripping out and destroying her expensive hearing aids repeatedly, throwing dirt in her face, and eventually, engaging in a physical altercation. Shoko treated him with kindness despite the bullying until she finally snapped and fought back.
After Shoko moved away, Shoya was blamed for the bullying and ostracized by his friends. This is even though almost none of them were kind to Shoko either, and most of them refused to learn Japanese sign language because it would be an inconvenience. To me, the first part of the movie is a reminder of how mean children can be–a lesson my own childhood taught me as well. It’s a testament to the strong spirit of Shoko that she is able to tolerate so much bullying before it breaks her. I wish I had had the strength of Shoko to be kind to bullies because all I did was either fight back or try to ignore it when I was bullied myself. I was never bullied as badly as she was though.
The teachers were so oblivious or just didn’t care, which was super frustrating but probably realistic. Adults so often do not want to get involved in the squabbles of children, even when serious bullying is happening.
Shoya is broken down by bullying too, which is directed toward him after Shoko leaves. He grows up with increasing amounts of social anxiety, develops depression, and feels immense self-hatred. The movie shows Xs over people’s faces to show how he has increasingly become disassociated with those around him, and that he is unable to meet the eyes of others anymore. He feels that he deserves any punishment that comes his way and does not deserve to be happy.
When Shoya and Shoko meet again, Shoko is not even able to pretend she is happy to see him, and I don’t blame her. This can be shown through her range of facial expressions and her obvious discomfort. When Shoya uses sign language to communicate with her, she forgives him and an unsteady kind-of friendship begins.
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Progressively, both Shoya and Shoko open up more about their feelings about the past and their feelings in the present. The audience gradually realizes that Shoko’s self-hatred is as strong as Shoya’s.
Shoya meets Shoko’s sister, who intentionally gets Shoya in trouble and has a strange habit of photographing dead animals.
Shoya and Shoko and a group of their friends begin to do activities together for fun, and the characters slowly begin to heal.
The climax of the movie is when Shoko chooses to commit suicide by falling from the balcony of her home, and Shoya reaches her just in time to prevent it. In the process, he falls from the balcony himself and is hospitalized.
Shoko’s sister admits why she was taking pictures of dead animals the whole time:
I thought if I showed her what death looked like she would stop saying she wanted to kill herself.”
This is easily the most powerful line in the whole movie.
Their meeting on the bridge after Shoya leaves the hospital is heartwarming and shows how they have both changed from the experience. I was so relieved they both lived, because I had been so afraid one of them would tragically die the whole time. I was definitely getting those kind of vibes from the movie. Phew.
This movie is beautiful. The story is beautiful and sad and cathartic at the same time. It is one of those more profound movies that explores what makes life worth living and what redemption costs. The animation is beautiful too. Some people said the movie was overly long, but I did not feel that was true because I was so drawn into it. The complexity of characters, their mental states, their struggles–it all felt so real and true-to life. The sad parts were so sad that I can honestly say that this is the saddest movie without a character death that I have ever watched.
I would 100% recommend this movie for anyone 13 or older. Even if you read this review and it’s already spoiled, watch it anyway, it’s that good.
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