Warning Might contain spoilers.

What a beautiful film. It’s so quiet and muted until the very end. The gorgeous music is a crucial part of what establishes that control and tone. The whole thing is an exercise in balance and restraint: its emotional moments carry so much weight because there is also joy and laughter alongside the sadness and tragedy, though the former never undercuts the latter.

The film carefully shows us just how lost and uncertain Shoya is, without excusing his bullying, ensuring his actions are horrific yet comprehensible. Demonstrating the cause and the effect is what permits sympathizing with his attempts at making amends. That said, it’s important to acknowledge that Shoko’s mother is completely right to be protective of her and not want her to go near Shoya when they meet again. It’s also important that, even apart from Shoya, no one gets away with being complicit in his bullying of Shoko. Everyone is held responsible for their actions. (On a related note, I don’t care what happens in the end; I simply cannot forgive Ueno. The way she assaults Shoko and even her mother is beyond shocking, and unlike with Shoya, there is no deep exploration of her psyche to balance her actions.)

I really like Yuzuru, who seems older than she is in her first appearance. When she says she’s dating Shoko, I assumed they were both queer; it became strange when she was first assumed to be a boy and then revealed to be Shoko’s younger sister. Meanwhile, I don’t understand the purpose of having Shoya’s sister in the periphery of the story. I don’t believe we even see her face once during the film (let alone hear from her), despite her husband making not one but two appearances. On the other hand, Maria is such a little darling.

I was completely unprepared to see first Shoko and then Shoya go over the railing in the climax. My heart still starts pounding at the memory. (Of course Shoya falls multiple storeys only to wake up intact and ready to resume everyday life.) Both of them need to just say it already… but in all fairness, Shoko does try. It’s Shoya who fails to understand her. Kawai unreservedly embracing Shoko and crying at the idea of almost losing her made me cry. Mashiba and Nagatsuka come across as such decent people too. I really just want Shoko, Shoya, Yuzuru, and all their friends (except for Ueno) to be happy again.

The one thing that does concern me is whether this qualifies as a story that uses a marginalized person as a prop from someone else’s growth. I feel like Shoko is enough of a fully-realized person in her own right that this isn’t the case, but I can’t speak with authority.

I don’t understand: why does Shoya’s mother have to rip out her earring and destroy her earlobe instead of just pulling it out?