The Voices Review
With The Voices, French-Iranian director Marjane Satrapi directs her first English-language feature. Already known for her adaptations of her graphic novels Persepolis and Chicken with Plums, The Voices is a step into an entirely new direction.
The film is set in the small industrial town of Milton, where Jerry (Ryan Reynolds), a socially inept young man, works at the local bathtub manufacturer. It is soon obvious that Jerry hears voices, namely from his cat and dog, Mr Whiskers and Bosco (both also voiced by Reynolds). The actor is haunting as the deranged Jerry. His naivety both conveys sympathy and an aura of grisly threat. The cat, who speaks in a heavy Scottish accent, eggs Jerry on to violence, while the kind yet dim dog entreats his master to do the right thing.
While organising a work party, Jerry takes a shine to Fiona (Gemma Arterton), a young woman in his office, and then Lisa (Anna Kendrick), another colleague. Fiona is British and writer Michael R. Perry attempts to make this amusing, to little success. Arteton uses quaint turns of phrase, acts with a bizarre cheerfulness, and makes the odd joke about her native weather, all of which will make British audiences wince. Meanwhile, Kendrick is credibly naïve and caring, representing the first real positive presence in Jerry’s life.
The fate of both women is revealed on all of the film’s marketing materials; they end up as talking severed heads in Jerry’s fridge, giving their own opinion, along with the pets, on what their murderer should do. Disappointingly, the film’s plot doesn’t go much further than telling the story of these two murders. While the audience might be hoping for an interesting change in direction, there is none.
The Voices is not funny in any way (despite it being sold as a dark comedy), nor does it bring gleeful entertainment or intellectual satisfaction. Viewing a man butcher women whilst discussing the matter with his pets elicits little else beyond a sense of horror. The film’s most moving moment takes place when Jerry takes medication and the audience sees, for the first time, the squalid reality of his surroundings. That too is nothing less than horrifying.
Towards the end, as the town’s suspicions are aroused, a series of characters make unrealistic decisions, further undermining the plot. Even Jerry’s psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver) makes evidently contrived mistakes. The ending is predictable, and rounded off with an unpleasantly weird dance sequence.
The Voices might have been exciting had it had a more original angle, or a twist. The film also unhelpfully vilifies those who really do hear voices, who are in reality much more likely to be a victim of violence than to perpetrate it. Stories told from the point of view of murderers need to give audiences something to sympathize with - some vague degree of morality. Few people will enjoy watching a series of murders just for their sake, and that is sadly, all The Voices offers.