YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/vlllFrEJUrU
Watching movies is one of my favorite pastimes, whether they be old or new, good or bad, I love sitting down for an hour or two and watching a complete story unfold. Generally I’ll watch a movie, enjoy it, and then not really think about it much after. Every once and a while though, I’ll find a movie that just speaks to me on another level, and that’s what happened with A Silent Voice. I heard about this movie while watching video essays on YouTube, and its concept immediately pulled me in. An elementary school kid bullies a deaf transfer student, but in high school he’s socially anxious and trying to make amends with the girl he bullied. This has instantly become one of my favorite movies ever. I implore you to watch this movie before continuing in this article, it’s an amazing movie and you need to go into without spoilers. It’s a two hour movie, but every second is great, and you can watch it on Netflix right now.
The movie mostly takes place in high school, but the beginning takes place mainly in elementary school. We see the main character Shoya with his friends, and they’re all surprised by Shoko, the new student who is deaf. Originally they all try to help her with school, but it eventually starts being too much for them. Shoya then decides to make fun of Shoko, and since his classmates find it funny, he continues to do it. Eventually he starts escalating what he does like throwing the notebook she uses to communicate into a pond and throwing away her hearing aids. Even through this Shoko still tries to be his friend though, much to Shoya’s annoyance. Shoya pulls one of Shoko’s hearing aids out of her ear, which causes her to bleed. Shoya is then ostracized by his teacher and the entire class, which leads to him losing his friends. Shoko still tries to be friends though, but this causes Shoya to fight her, and Shoko to transfer schools. Shoko is isolated, and we see that he is entirely alone in the modern day. The beginning of the movie shows how Shoko was planning his suicide, but he went to Shoko to give her one of her communication notebooks. Shoko is shocked but happy, especially because Shoya used sign language to talk to her. Shoko then finishes their conversation by asking if they can be friends, which is one of the reasons he doesn’t go through with his suicide.
We see that as a result of what he did as a child, Shoya doesn’t interact with anyone or have any friends. This is represented by everybody having a large blue X over their face, and the fact that Shoya constantly looks down and away from people, never looking them in the eye. Throughout the story Shoya starts to open up to more people, after taking that first step with Shoko. He helps Tomohiro, another outcast, and the two become friends. Shoya has his first friend in years, and he also is reconnecting with Shoko by feeding fish with her. Shoya then becomes friends and helps with Shoko’s younger sister Yuzuru after she runs away from home. As they start being better friends, Shoya helps track down Sahara so she can reunite with Shoko, as they were friends in elementary school. One day Shoko tries to confess her feelings by talking, but Shoya can’t understand her, which upsets her immensely. Shoya later invites all of his friends to a theme park, including a new friend Satoshi, and two old friends Miki and Naoko. Shoya is excited and is surprised that he’s having fun with his friends. But Naoko, who Shoya still isn’t on the best terms with, tries to get Shoya to reunite with one of his original friends, but this messes with Shoya. Naoko is upset by this and takes Shoko on the ferris wheel. Shoya later learns that Naoko blames Shoko for Shoya’s isolation. It’s also revealed that Shoko blames herself and she hates herself. At school Miki, trying to remain blameless for Shoko’s bullying, she exposes Shoya to those who didn’t know. This leads to a confrontation between Shoya and everybody. Shoya starts only hanging out with Yuzuru and Shoko, and they all get closer. They all go to a fireworks display, but Shoko leaves early, even though the fireworks just started. Yuzuru has Shoya go back to get her camera, where he sees Shoko about to commit suicide. He manages to grab her hand and keep her from falling. He manages to pull her up, but he falls in the process and ends up in a coma. While he’s in a coma, Shoko reaches out to all of Shoya’s friends who have been split up, and she tries to make things better with everyone. Shoya wakes up from his coma and finds Shoko and the two talk about what has happened and how Shoya wants help to live. The movie ends with Shoya helping Shoko get back to school and reuniting with his friends. The group then goes to the fair that’s going on, and Shoya finally looks up and everybody’s X’s come off of their faces.
A Silent Voice perfectly and maturely tackles topics that most media either doesn’t acknowledge, or doesn’t show it this well. The main character is set up as unlikable early on in the film, so Shoya’s redemption and breaking out of his shell is so well done. This is also easily one of the best representations of social anxiety I’ve seen. Not only do the X’s show that Shoya can’t look people in the eyes, but he imagines his classmates saying bad things about him, and even at the theme park while he’s having fun with his friends, he’s unsure of if he deserves it. Shoya’s struggle can be felt throughout the whole movie, and when he snaps at all of his friends before just being around Shoko, you can hear how upset he is, even as he does it. Throughout everything though, Shoko is who Shoya really cares for and wants to be around. He’s accused of only interacting with her for redemption from childhood, or as a white knight, when in reality he just wants a friend, and she was always trying to be his friend.
Shoko is also an amazing character, because through everything she tries to be nice and keep a smile on her face. It genuinely hurts seeing her go through so much when she’s so young, but the bullying doesn’t feel cartoonish, it feels like it could actually happen. Shoko continues to try and befriend everyone, even her bullies like Shoya, and she even cleans his desk when he starts getting bullied. When she’s older she apologizes constantly and to everyone, but it’s because she hates herself and sees herself as the cause of everyone’s problems, especially Shoya’s. This is what eventually leads her to try and take her own life, before luckily being saved by Shoya. Shoko goes through so much pain yet she still tries to stay positive and help others, and by the end of the movie we see how much it pays off for both her and Shoya.
This movie has some of the best writing as it treats all of these characters with a sense of realism to them, not just doing whatever the plot wants them to. It’s really satisfying seeing Shoya redeem himself and become a better person after everything that’s happened. The moment when Shoya is wondering if he can have fun just really hits me hard. Shoko also has an amazing arc of moving forward, not blaming others problems on herself, and learning not to hate herself. A multitude of moments really hit me hard, and I’m not unwilling to say that I cried a few times during the movie.
The directing and cinematography are important in every movie, and A Silent Voice blows most movies out of the water. Many scenes end up focusing on the legs of characters, which serves many purposes depending on the context. Sometimes it’s used to show Shoya’s social anxiety towards everyone, other times it’s used to contrast the characters now and when they were younger. Easily the best directorial work is whenever sign language is used, as there’s a good mixture of characters saying and responding to it as well as just signing. This allows for those not fluent in sign language to gauge what’s mainly being discussed by looking at the characters and their emotions and reactions. Wordless storytelling is a hugely impressive and gratifying thing to watch, so seeing it performed so well is just a testament to this movie’s incredible direction.
Now I can’t believe I’ve gone this far talking about A Silent Voice without mentioning the animation, which is just gorgeous. Character animations all look great, and the aforementioned shots focused on legs can reveal which character is on screen just by how they walk. The sign language also looks great and is the correct symbols. The animation also looks smooth all the way through, and no corners look like they were cut. Movement is so fluid whether its the characters or the environment, it is just beautiful to look at. The animation can be painful though whenever Shoko is being bullied, as well as when any of the characters are suffering or sad, as their expressions and mannerisms just hurt you as a viewer.
The final major part of the movie is the music, and the original soundtrack is just beautiful. The majority of the soundtrack is piano pieces, but they each have their own unique tone. The pieces range from somber to upbeat to inspirational, and can even build major tension. It’s honestly one of the best and most fitting soundtracks I’ve seen in a movie.
There is one scene in particular that perfectly encapsulates all of what I’ve previously mentioned, and that is Shoko’s suicide attempt. It’s one of the most important and poignant scenes in the movie. It really starts when Shoko leaves the fireworks show, and while Shoya signs to her “See you later,” Shoko just signs “Thank you.” This is a really subtle nod to what’s about to happen. Shoya goes to her house to grab Yuzuru’s camera. Once he gets there he sees Shoko on the back deck watching the fireworks. She then gets up on the ledge and prepares to jump. Shoya runs to her but falls, and then he screams her name, but you can see in a previous shot that she took out her hearing aid. As Shoya runs to Shoko you can hear the music swell, even when he falls. The animation of Shoya running is really good, but we don’t see Shoko’s jump, just a curtain that flies over the window where she was standing, and then she wasn’t there anymore. The music cuts out as silence plays over the fireworks, then we see that Shoya actually caught Shoko. This parallels earlier in the movie where Shoko jumped in the river and he missed, and when he fell down the hill and Shoko missed. But here, Shoko was caught. Shoya puts all his effort into pulling her up, and he thinks about how from then on he’ll do better at life and be a better person. He manages to bring her up to where she can pull up to the balcony, but Shoya falls once she gets back up. Shoya hits the water, and then starts bleeding and passes out. This is one of my favorite movie scenes ever, as it is beautiful animation and score-wise, but I also love how it builds off of concepts set up earlier in the film. It is genuinely terrifying because you don’t know if Shoko will live or die. When the camera shows that Shoko has jumped my stomach drops every single time. This scene is just one of many that are perfect in every aspect: writing, animation, music, and direction.
A Silent Voice instantly captivated me from its first moments. What I thought would just be a fun movie to watch one night immediately drew me in with its complexity and became one of my favorite movies of all time. Not many movies actually elicit emotional reactions from me, but every scene of A Silent Voice had me feeling a different way. This is one of the few movies that’s brought me to tears, and that’s a testament to the skills of the creators. I’ve never seen a movie that can make me feel so terrible along with the characters, all while presenting different actual problems with such tact and realism that it’s instantly relatable in so many aspects. A Silent Voice is a truly beautiful movie that deals with bullying, depression, and social anxiety in a deeply meaningful and personal way, but also how things can get better if you continue living. Everybody should watch this movie as it is a piece of art, and even everything I’ve said so far isn’t singing its praises high enough.