Starring: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki
Director: Naoko Yamada
Running Time: 129 mins
A Silent Voice is a Japanese film about a deaf girl who joins a new school, but spends most of her time being bullied by a group of other children. Years later, she and her previous bully meet again, and begin to look back on the difficult times of elementary school.
This is a very interesting film, not least because it brings to light an engrossing and relatable real-world story, but also because it goes about it in both a heavy-going and still elegant way. Brilliantly directed from start to finish and featuring excellent animation throughout, A Silent Voice is a very strong film that goes one better with a powerful and genuinely affecting story.
If there is one issue that I have with this film, it’s that it starts in a very heavy fashion. Although it perfectly sets up the plot over the following two hours, the opening act where we see this young deaf girl being bullied is incredibly depressing. Not holding back at all when it comes to both the victim and even the bully’s own hardships, it’s a thought-provoking and powerful opening, but one that you might feel inclined to walk away from given how heavy-going it is right from the start.
However, if you stick with A Silent Voice through the intense opening act, then you’re in for a very rewarding and engrossing time. For me, what this film does best is take topics such as school bullying, teenagers’ social circles and high school relationships and bring an impressive level of dramatic gravity and poignancy where so many other films treat them in a far more trivial manner.
The main story at hand is generally very down-to-earth as well, and given that it tells such a relatable tale that almost everyone has either experienced or seen happen, it’s very easy to understand where the various characters are coming from, allowing you to look even deeper.
There are a couple of melodramatic moments, particularly in the film’s final act, but the great thing about A Silent Voice is that it never exchanges genuine, real-world emotion for something more theatrical and entertaining. As such, this is often a very quiet, slow and patient film, but it’s an atmosphere that works very well for the story at hand, and it allows for a contemplative and thought-provoking experience that makes for far more powerful emotional drama than I could have ever expected.
Now, the overall story arc here may not be the most unpredictable, but the twists and turns the plot takes in its middle portion work fantastically. Rather than being a sob story about a girl being bullied, the film looks at a wide range of characters involved in the situation, from the original bully himself and the way he changes through the years, the family of the deaf girl, as well as former and new friends of them both.
It may sound a little overstuffed, but with such a wide range of characters comes a wide range of directions the story can take, and it makes for a far more thorough and complete experience that what I expected coming in, making A Silent Voice something a little more special than a normal high school drama, and certainly a lot more emotionally powerful, which is why I’m giving it an 8.1 overall.