The old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is one we hear constantly but isn’t always practiced as much as we would like it to be. What we say and do to everyone we meet matters, and a kind word or action holds as much power as negative ones do. The anime film A Silent Voice examines what happens when we don’t treat each other with compassion and understanding.
The story follows high school teen Shoya Ishida, who is ready to end his life by jumping off a bridge until a distraction below snaps him out of what he is about to do. The opening scenes of the movie, prior to the scene on the bridge, details Ishida’s bully past in elementary school towards the new student Naoka Ueno, who is deaf and can only communicate with others either through sign language or handing people a notebook to jot down what they wish to say.
Lacking in understanding and patience, young Ishida finds Ueno irritating and picks on her relentlessly, from making fun of the way she talks to forcibly ripping the hearing aids off her ears. The bullying gets so bad that Ueno transfers out of the school, leaving Ishida and his class to reckon with the cruel mistreatment she has suffered. This leads into present day Ishida who is still reeling from the aftermath of what he has done, and has gone to great lengths to atone for his past—starting with the girl he had tormented years ago.
A Silent Voice premiered in Japan on September 17, 2016 and released in the USA on October 20, 2017. The film has been critically acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of bullying and how it affects the people involved, both directly and indirectly.
While the movie wasn’t exactly new, I only just recently sat down and watched it for the first time when I saw it was available on Netflix stream. I came into the movie knowing that it would be one that would be well worth my time to watch. What I didn’t expect was how emotional and deeply moving this film would turn out to be.
A Silent Voice wrings every emotion out of you until there’s nothing left to feel, except maybe leaving you a sobbing mess by the time the movie is over. It handles the serious, and oftentimes, difficult subject matters of bullying and suicide with the utmost care and delicacy. I’m particularly struck by how well the movie manages to change your opinion on Ishida within the first 20 minutes of the film. If you started hating the elementary school punk Ishida at the start of the movie, you’ll instantly feel an immense amount of empathy for the teenage Ishida.
A major focus of A Silent Voice is Ishida’s path to redemption and the struggle to release all the guilt he still carries to get to a place of forgiveness, whether it’s for himself or seeking it from others. By starting over and taking the time to befriend Ueno, and many others who knew him in the past, they are able to see the significant changes he has undergone since being Ishida the bully to become the kind of man who wants to do the right thing and be a true friend to others.
If you haven’t seen A Silent Voice and have been waiting for an opportunity to go see it, like I have, don’t waste another minute of your time. Go see the movie that has earned the hype it received. You will laugh and you will most certainly cry, but it will also leave you with a sense of hope. Hope that people are capable of change and deserve a second chance.
Reviewer Rating: 10/10