I love reviewing movies, but sometimes I feel like I can’t review the things that mean the most to me. How stupid is that? I’ve been doing this for almost four full years now. My greatest pride and joy has been putting into words why things do and don’t work from my perspective in the hopes that people who aren’t film critics but merely film enjoyers can appreciate things more.
But sometimes when I love something so much, I can overhype it. It happens all the time. Something will come along that isn’t just a great movie. To me, after I’ve watched it, it’s THE great movie. And if I hype it up too much, will people not feel the same way I did? Will they not cry as hard, or smile as brightly when it’s over?
I’ve decided that I can’t undersell how a film made me feel though. After all, I have the words to explain what about this film made me love it. And I can’t get too worked up over whether or not everyone who reads my thoughts will feel the same way I do. This is a review, but more importantly, it is an account of how Violet Evergarden: The Movie made me incredibly happy. And I hope it can make you happy too.
If you enjoy my work, consider becoming a Patron!
The film begins with a look at the future of this alt-history grounded fantasy world that the show calls home. We return to a place that will be immediately known to the fans of the TV series from 2018. A house that the titular Violet spent many days at, writing many letters for a woman to be delivered after her death to her daughter for years.
The movie joins that family two generations later. The granddaughter of the little girl who received those letters begins a search to discover the story of the Auto Memory Doll that helped connect a mother and daughter after death. This story begins the film strong, rekindling strong memories of the series that started it all.
But this movie isn’t simply coasting on the good faith of the series, capitalizing on all the fun had before. It does like to reminisce mind you, and it does so in a way that new viewers could likely enjoy this film without having seen the rest of the series. I wouldn’t even call it an inferior experience. As a work of film, this movie stands alone fairly well.
As the through-line of the film focuses on the girl in the future looking back on Violet’s accomplishments, the opening act is a wonderful establishment of the character and a recap. However, it isn’t so tacky as to carry the connotation of a recap in other anime films. It feels more diegetic. And before long, the film begins to create plenty of new memories.
We join Violet once more at the conclusion of another grand job: writing the lyrics for a song at a festival out in the port of Leiden. Violet can’t help but find herself in the company of fascinating sorts and even more fascinating jobs. The whole scene is entrancing, drawing in the viewer with a display of a festival so choreographed that its cultural importance is immediately felt.
Times are changing in the world. As the war has come to a close, new machines are being built. Electricity and lightbulbs are everywhere. A broadcast tower is being constructed. More importantly, phones are being built. The ghostwriters of the CH Postal Company are working their hearts out, making the most of their profession before new technology and increased literacy makes them obsolete.
Amidst the times of celebration, Violet still can’t move on from the man who told her he loved her: Major Gilbert Bougainvillea. After his disappearance after the battle that cost Violet her two arms, her desire to learn what love was sent her on the path to becoming the incredible young woman she is by the time she appears on the screen.
Her continued grief, despite how much progress she has made in understanding others, doesn’t go unnoticed by those around her. Her friends, most notably, Claudia Hoggins, and Gilbert’s own brother, the previously antagonistic Dietfried, all express concern. But how do you tell someone to move on from someone they love – that in all likelihood is dead – but that they’re convinced is alive.
I will admit: I was worried that Violet’s own story couldn’t be wrapped up in a satisfying way. The best moments from the show were always the ones focused on Violet helping others and learning from them. The episodic stories kept me going. But I was wrong to worry. This film gives Violet someone new to help, whose dilemma mirrors their own.
It’s incredible how much Violet has grown from the beginning of the series to the movie. To new viewers, she just seems insightful, but longtime viewers see the stark contrast. A young boy named Yurith hires Violet to write letters to his family. While he tries to find the words to say, Violet makes very accurate assessments of how he might be feeling. At first, it seems like she’s speaking based on what she’s learned over years of helping people. In truth, she’s speaking from how her situation relates to his.
I like to give myself a full day to absorb a film before I make a final judgment. Within that time, I’ll usually find ways to critique the film more fairly. More problems arise over time. Here though, it only got deeper. Things that went right over my head began to make sense. Violet sees a bit of herself in Yurith because his relationship with his younger brother reminds her of her relationship with the major’s brother. Dietfried was always something of an asshole in the series, but this film changed my perception of him completely.
Violet Evergarden was always about empathy and the observation of it from the view of a young woman whose interpersonal skills were severely underdeveloped. To see those skills shine so brightly, yet for her to still retain some stoic wisdom unlike most other people makes her an incredible character to look up to. And one moment, in particular, solidified her as a hero in my mind.
Towards the end of the film, Violet has an opportunity to get true closure with her feelings towards Gilbert. She could finally put so much pain to rest. However, she’s willing to give that up for a chance to complete her job for the young boy that hired her. Because she made a promise.
In the end, it was the helping that mattered, not how it was done. The typewriter was never important. It was hardly even the aesthetic. What it could do was important. Violet, with the help of all her friends, completes the job. New technology always seems scary at first because it jeopardizes the current way things are done. Change is scary. But the benefits of technology cannot be understated. Helping people connect and share their feelings more earnestly is paramount.
In the end, it’s the marching of the times and advancements in technology that save the day; it helps Violet keep her promise. We as the audience are made to be afraid of it at first because it would seem to invalidate our heroes, but we discover again – as if discovering it for the first time – why it is imperative we strive to innovate.
I’m trying desperately to avoid too many spoilers but I have to find a way to put into words how beautiful this film’s conclusion is and the themes are quite literally too perfect. There have been many human stories of connection and how bonds are tested. There have been optimistic and hopeful stories like Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding. There have also been tales of war tearing lives apart and driving a wedge between people, asking us to forgive the “unforgivable” like The Last of Us Part II and Attack on Titan: The Final Season.
Violet Evergarden is certainly more on the optimistic side of the spectrum. It reminds us that we can express the words that seem impossible to speak and doing so can change hearts inexorably. And as long as we don’t let war destroy everything we have, we will always have that power so long as we are at peace.
I’m a critic. I love watching movies. If I couldn’t watch movies I don’t know what I would do with myself. COVID-19 ruined a lot of opportunities to go see movies and consume art. Now, after having seen this film, I realize how desperately I needed it. Maybe that’s why this film’s conclusion hit me as much as it did. I was able to share that moment with a theater, albeit at half capacity due to restrictions.
Between the laughs at the moments of levity to the shared tears, this was the most amazing experience I’ve had in a theater. If the franchise didn’t already have the right to be called a masterpiece, this film – on its own – has certainly solidified just that.
Violet Evergarden: The Movie is the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen.
At the time of writing, Violet Evergarden: The Movie is seeing a limited theatrical run in the US. No plans for a Blu-ray release are known, however, it is likely coming to Netflix in the near future, as the rest of the franchise has been licensed for streaming by them.
What do you think about the Violet Evergarden movie? Are you unable to see it in theaters? Planning to watch it as soon as it hits Netflix? Leave a comment below and let me know.
Forgive what at times seems like fancily-worded drivel, but this movie just about justified the praise this franchise has given and I will stand by that. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading and as always, I’ll see you next time!