feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
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Animation has always been a platform that speaks to me greater at an emotional level. Much of this is due to the artists' and filmmaker's ability to fabricate gorgeous visuals that heighten one's immersion to the story and also the medium's capability to provide a greater freedom for the director to further push his agenda and paint a better complexity in its themes and characters. This was the reason why Your Name. became one of my personal favourites of last year, and it is one of the reasons on why A Silent Voice may become one of mine for this year.
Naoko Yamada's A Silent Voice revolves around Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino), a high school student in search of a way to redeem himself and come to terms with the trauma that he had left on a deaf student on Elementary School, Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami). The film exposes the ripples that emerge from the actions we, as an individual, perform, whether to ourselves or others and highlights the fragility of the human condition and the capabilities that one possesses when suffering in such a state.
Our protagonist Ishida finds himself isolated from the actions that he previously placed upon her and others during 6th grade, that he now walks through the halls and classes of High School with an infamous reputation, one that reveals the dissolved relationship he now has with his previous companions. Through this experience, we see this character endure through a significant change in contrast to the more confident nature that was found in his youth. Ishida is now self-inflicting and depressed, he has realised that maybe the world is now taking its turn to inflict trauma onto him, and that for the hurt that he has caused, that he is destined to live such a painful life.
The film wonderfully sells the potential demolition of the human ego, to actually feel as broken as the people that he has caused damage to, capturing an air of sympathy towards him - resembling the transformation in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange - and reinforce the optimistic potential of a human being to truly find redemption in this world.
Fascinatingly, the film also manages to find ample time to explore through Nishimiya's internal rumblings, revealing the strengths she carries day in and day out, the resilience she carries for her optimism despite the disability that she is burdened with in her daily life, to somehow capture at least a sense of normalcy in a world that is easily willing to dismiss her existence. We see her and Ishida's relationship grow, but with it, they begin to reflect on the sufferings of their past, eventually transferring such pains into the present. The film highlights the complicated traumas and suffering that humans bear every single day, and with every individual, comes a breaking point that places one in dangerous waters that may not be possible to get out of.
This is a film that is unashamed to enter into sentimental waters in order to find to the authenticity of its subject matter, it utilises experimental visual cues that reflect the perspective, both external and internal, of its depicted characters, and is willing to develop and reinforce them as the film progresses forward. It never enters into an aura of the fantasy in order to sell its drama and emotions, but it is not necessarily afraid to convey unorthodox ways to get its messages across.
A Silent Voice is a film that resembles much of the emotional power that is found in Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, in that it reaffirms a piece of its characters that in turn mirrors onto its audience. We feel everything that its protagonist is going through, and it is through that the film manages to carry such a significant power over its audience. This is an example of cinema at its most penetrative and soulful; this should be the standard all filmmakers should aspire to.