The Voices (2015) Review
Screenplay: Michael R. Perry
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 1hr 43 minutes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver
Plot: A likable guy pursues his office crush with the advice of his talking pets, but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.
We’ve all learnt to live with that silent voice in the back of our minds. It’ll often be a murmur of self-doubt, a whisper of discontent or even a rally cry to act on an impulsive urge. Those suffering with schizophrenia often suffer with a terrible form of this unfortunate symptom. Iranian director Marjane Satrapi has honed in on this tough subject matter with a whacky blend of comic satire, unruly horror and a deep sense of melancholia. It’s a unique brand of cinema that is able to marry a frightening character study with jet black comedy. The Voices is offbeat and unclassifiable. There’s an unpredictable quality to the plot that makes it eminently watchable and thoroughly entertaining. There’s a dizzying blend of influences from the mystery of Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), the brooding menace of Scorcese’s Shutter Island (2010) but all underpinned by a dark humour seen in the likes of McDonagh’s In Bruges (2008).
Ryan Reynolds is tremendous as Jerry, the likeable factory worker battling his mental illness with the help of psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver). Desperate to conform and find his place in the world, Jerry is over zealous and stutters over his crush for stuck up office beauty, Fiona (Gemma Arterton). Jerry’s plagued by inner demons that bizarrely take the form of his talking cat and dog. While on the surface, the idea of a Dr Doolittle slapstick comedy is absurd, the end result is surprisingly effective. The feline, Mr Whiskers, is a devilish influence and represents the dark side of Jerry. The cat is the ID, the primitive and irrational aspect of the personality. Mr Whiskers encourages the immediate fulfilment of Jerry’s aggressive, psychotic fantasies. In contrast, Bosco, the friendlier dog is the super-ego and represents the rational moral influence. He attempts to protect Jerry and save him from the perils of his violent urges. It’s a fascinating confrontation of the mind that sees Mr Whiskers come out on top.
When Jerry is stood up by Fiona for their first date, a switch is flipped in his mind with fatal consequences. The shift from the jolly to the gothic is staggering and despite being a little sudden, the moonlit forest scene is a pivotal blood-soaked turning point. Despite Jerry’s childlike infatuation with Fiona, Lisa (Anna Kendrick), a fellow employee makes no secret her attraction for him. Her connection with Jerry is natural and she seems to be the only individual capable of creating a meaningful connection with the disillusioned soul. In a brilliantly executed sequence, Lisa is lured into Jerry’s home that appears on the surface to be a homely apartment, is exposed as a killer’s lair. Reality is mixed with Jerry’s hallucinatory visions that create a disorienting experience. Is that really a talking head sitting in the fridge? Or is it Jerry’s guilty conscience running riot?
Although the darker elements of The Voices cast a dark cloud over its running time, Reynolds’ supremely vulnerable and witty performance adds an unrivalled comic gravitas to even the most brutal frame. Having voiced Mr Whiskers and Bosco, the American’s charismatic performance anchors Satrapi’s film even when it threatens to derail itself. It’s perhaps the most innovative horror comedy since Jermaine Clement’s superb ‘What we do in the Shadows’ (2014). When you hear that feint voice in your mind, it’s Bosco urging you to immerse yourself into the madness. It’s well worth the ride.
The Voices is yet another spectacular Arrow Films release packed with unmissable extras such as Interviews •Scare Pranks •Deleted Scenes •Extended Scenes • Pet Voice Recordings. The film makes its way onto DVD, Blu-Ray and Steelbook (the latter exclusive to Zavvi.com) on Monday July 13th.