Shouko Nishimiya is the new girl in grade school one day. She is deaf. Instead of being met with understanding she’s met with nothing but bullying, teasing and annoyance by her other class members who would rather not accomodate her.
Shouya Ishida is the worst offender of the bullying of Nishimiya. He kicks, slaps, throws dirt, takes her hearing aids away and throws her notebooks which she uses to communicate with her classmates in the water. He is ostracized for pushing this girl away and find himself looking inwards. Years later he seeks her out and looks for some way to atone. In the end, he finds much more enriching friendships than he ever had when he was in grade school.
I can’t remember who wrote this; but I recall reading someone discussing the weird space in which our viewing of a film is wholy shaped not just by the film but the context of our lives and what’s going on in the world at the same time. This film brought that back for me in waves that are almost uncontrollable.
In today’s world we’re not another 24 hours away from another story of a man of power sexually assauting/harassing a woman. This is generally followed with a perfectly phrased, in the best circumstances, press release/letter discussing how he acknowledges his faults and wants to do better. The next step is us being asked to believe his desire to be better.
Truth is we mostly don’t.
This film takes us to that point in time after all the crimes has occurred. Our perpetrator has had a chance to actually do the contemplation and put into action his desire to be better. We watch with a skeptical eye, wondering about his motives.
Is it out of guilt? Is it for redemption? Is it because it will make him look a better person to the world at large?
In this context A Silent Voice is nothing if not a breath of fresh air. While I don’t want to project Ishida’s arc onto any of the people we hear about every other day, it somewhat gives me hope for a world where we’re more empathetic to sections of society living in fear. It gives me hope that those who are affected can be made whole, or on the way to it. It gives me hope that the monsters causing them to be afraid can change sincerely.
At its core, this film wants us to think not only about these specific characters’ journeys but ourselves.
It wants us to consider how we encase ourselves in hate and uncertainty. How when we’re wronged into asking whether we deserved it, or could’ve done something different. This story challenges those who say they can change to explain whether it’s possible. The world will looks at you now and only see that one version of you. What will it take to change that perception?
In the real world cases of this, I can’t fathom what it would take to affect the change needed by people in the news. I don’t know how one would even begin to make amends for those sins. What would they be able to do so that we can look at them as anything other than the monsters we see today?
What this movie does, is make me consider a world where we’re passed the hurt and we’re in the stage of healing.
Somehow that feels comforting now – even if it’s not really happening yet.