Some Voices Review
West London. Ray (Daniel Craig) is released from mental hospital into the care of his brother Pete (David Morrissey), who runs a greasy-spoon café he inherited from their father. Working for Pete, Ray meets Glaswegian Laura (Kelly Macdonald), pregnant by an abusive boyfriend. They fall in love, but when Ray stops taking his medication things begin to spin out of control.
Some Voices, adapted from his own stage play by Joe Penhall, is at heart a love story between two troubled souls. In its treatment of mental illness, it falls between the two "similar releases" I've listed above. It avoids the soft-centredness of the Hollywood production Benny and Joon without being anywhere near as harrowing as the US indie Clean, Shaven. (Anyone who's seen the latter film will be relieved to know that there's no equivalent of the fingernail scene in Some Voices.) The director, Simon Cellan Jones, and cinematographer, David Odd, go for a gritty, verité look, using handheld cameras and natural light as much as possible. The film has a good eye for location, most of it set around the Westway and Shepherd's Bush, with a brief excursion to Hastings when Ray and Laura go on holiday together. In his commentary, Cellan Jones says that they deliberately avoided filming in nearby Notting Hill due to the area's over-familiarity. The film conveys Ray's skewed perspective on the world by occasionally jarring editing and some imaginative sound mixing, of which more later. The acting of the leads is very strong. Some Voices is intriguing, and has quite a bit going for it, so it's a shame that it peters out in its third act.
Some Voices has been given an anamorphic transfer in what would seem to be the correct ratio of 1.85:1. It's fair to say that I couldn't see anything wrong with the picture: I spotted no artefacts at all. The film has a rather pale, slightly grainy look to it, but that's inherent in the way it was filmed. I didn't see Some Voices in the cinema, but there's nothing to suggest that this isn't how it's meant to look.
This DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Apart from an eclectic music track (on which French chanteuse Françoise Hardy coexists with Squeeze's "Goodbye Girl"), Cellan Jones and his sound crew make imaginative use of the possibilities of multi-channel digital sound. They mix the dialogue down a little, so that some sound effects seem unusually loud – this is intentional, and helps us to see (and hear) the world the way Ray does. There are some striking uses of the surrounds – check out the Catherine Wheel Ray lights when he and Laura are in Hastings. When many films either restrict the soundtrack to music, or (typically for Hollywood blockbusters) simply seek to batter the audience into submission, it's nice to see some thought put into the use of sound.
The extras are much as usual for a Film Four release: certainly there and in some quantity, but rather basic all the same. Cellan Jones provides a commentary which is interesting in parts but has quite a few lengthy gaps in it. Sometimes he resorts simply to describing what's on screen, or interpreting Ray's actions for us. There's a trailer (running 1:40) and a featurette (6:02), both capable as far as they go but not especially inspiring. There are interviews with the four leads, the director and the writer, many of their comments simply soundbites (and some of them also appearing in the featurette). "On location" is 4:44 of behind-the-scenes footage edited together with nothing in the way of context or commentary provided.
Some Voices is intriguing enough to be worth a look, especially for some fine performances, but like rather too many British films it needed more in the way of script development. This DVD has a very good picture and an imaginatively-used soundtrack, but the extras aren't much to write home about. It's currently available at a RRP of £19.99 but if you're considering buying it please note that it's getting a reissue on 11 February (in as far as I know the same DVD package) at the budget price point of £9.99, so it might be worth waiting until then unless you can get it cheaper now.