I’m making this clear from the start - I have not read the manga and I don't believe any of the characters in this film are damsels in distress or purely a stereotype.
The first 30 minutes of this film had me completely emotionally invested in these characters. It hit close to home seeing students bullied, similar to how people were bullied while I was growing up. This was particularly the case when watching a student like Nishimiya, who did nothing but be nice to others, get bullied just for being different. I have also seen a bully end up being the victim or an outcast, like Ishida. This set up a great premise for the rest of the film to explore. However, things rapidly go downhill from here.
As the story progresses, the three main themes of the film; bullying, suicide and friendship, end up being tossed aside for teenage drama. When things are starting to go well, Ueno turns up and does some incredibly mean things to Nishimiya. This is followed by Ishida deciding to randomly insult people. No one communicates properly for 10 minutes straight and the anime becomes melodramatic. Instead, an accident occurs and everything is forgotten. Granted, there is some reflection done by Ishida, but nowhere near enough to earn that "happy" ending.
While I understand that currently many people are impressed by this film, I feel that after some reflection on the main themes of the film, the flaws become noticeable. Outside of a short apology and a few thoughts during a dream sequence, the bullying is never addressed properly. Pretending that bullying and abuse can simply be swept under the rug and forgotten is a terrible message to send. Suicide is treated as something that will only be attempted once in a person's life instead of a recurring issue that needs to be addressed properly and respectfully due to the lasting effects it can have on the person and those who are close to them. Friendship is portrayed as something that allows for people to lie and abuse one another. As long as someone has a life-threatening problem, all the negatives of a relationship are forgotten. It is amazing that a film about understanding one another and improving communication does not understand the issues it brings up and has characters who fail to communicate about any of the issues they face. The reality is that after the film has concluded, it is likely that our characters are going to regress as soon as the festival finishes because they have not shown that they understood each other. They are still harbouring their problems, and do not know how to deal with them. Maybe Ueno will be allowed to beat up more people.
Since this is a KyoAni film, you are at least guaranteed great animation and voice acting. All the characters have great designs and the cast do a great job making each character believable. Extra praise needs to be given to Saori Hayanami though for her portrayal of Nishimiya. She does a fantastic job making Nishimiya into a believable deaf person.
After being completely hooked by this film and then completely taken out of it, I have to sadly say that I do not believe this is worth watching. Hence, I cannot recommend this. Hopefully there will be a good film in the future (or maybe there is one that I have not seen yet) that is willing to tackle these issues properly to recommend instead.