General plot summary (with spoilers):
Instead of studying for high school entrance exams, protagonist Shizuru opts to read. Everyone keeps telling her to study, but she longs for adventure away from the monotony, just like the fairy tales she reads. She dreams, but the gravity of reality sinks in when the guy her best friend has a crush on confesses to Shizuru.
Then Shizuru meets Seiji, a classmate who makes violins. She’s inspired by his devotion to the craft, and when he tells her he’s going to Italy for two months to improve his skills, Shizuru wishes to be just as passionate about something as he is. She decides to become a writer, abandoning her school studies in the process of doing so.
“Do your best.” We hear that a lot, don’t we? Shizuru does just that once she aspires to become a writer. She sets a goal to write a novel within two months, and because of this tight deadline, she throws away all effort to study for school. Her grades drop dramatically, and her parents are initially upset. Shizuru even sacrifices her health, staying up until 4 am to write the manuscript and skipping dinner.
Shizuru soon realizes that “Do your best” does not mean abandoning everything to pursue one goal. Her finished draft is described by a reader as heartfelt, but unpolished. Suddenly, Shizuru discovers that she should study hard after all, to get into a good high school. That way, she can polish her writing skills and become a great writer.
I appreciated the movie’s depiction of Shizuru’s parents as accepting of their daughter’s nontraditional choice to pursue writing instead of attending high school. Though they are initially wary and concerned about her failing grades, they recognize Shizuru’s devotion to her goal and let her be in control of her decisions. Because of their acknowledgment, Shizuru is able to realize herself that she still needs to attend high school.
Whisper of the Heart is the optimistic voice in your spirit that shouts out Dreams and Goals and places Ambition into a jar of soft, unadulterated cotton candy. While watching the film, I kept thinking “Why is a middle-schooler so worried about her future?” But I’ve since realized that the young protagonist brings a certain passion and energy to her pursuit of becoming a writer that weary, reality-struck adults could learn from.