SOUND OF MY VOICE Review

What grabs you about Sound of My Voice is not just the idea the film revolves around, but the fact that you don't necessarily know what or where exactly any of this is coming from and where it might be going. It is an ambitious film on a small scale. If you have seen the trailer then you understand the intrigue of what is going on here and you adore the tone for its subtle and scarce feelings it leaves you with. This is a brief but very precise film. It knows what it's going for and by all accounts it captures it perfectly. There is a mystery to the going-on's that can't hardly be described and there is an intelligence to the writing that at the same time makes us feel both calm yet inadequate. It is a strange feeling, but that kind of confusion, hesitation, and flat out mesmerizing effect is no doubt what director and co-writers Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling were going for. Marling, who is the new "it" girl for indie films after last year's underrated Another Earth does tremendous work here. This is an original and engaging film that not only proves you can make a good science fiction flick without green screens and space ships but that you can also make a film on a small budget that can blow you away. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat and at the end you really do want more. It is one of those movies you want to watch again as soon as it ends. You want to interrogate the film because you enjoyed it so much. It was truly an experience and for anyone that did in fact doubt Ms. Marling can surely now be silenced as she has proved herself more than a one cult wonder. This is a fantastic film and one that will likely be on my top 10 list at the end of the year. I can't wait to tell people about this movie. I'm still thinking about it. I'm still fascinated.

Peter (Christopher Denham) integrates himself into a
cult to prove their leader is a fraud.
It is no secret what this central character claims to be and so I don't hesitate in mentioning it here. In fact, this is the way the trailer gets you. It is how it clinches that unnerving feeling it has already instilled. It offers the promise of some kind of insight into a phenomenon that is either not possible or beyond our realm of comprehension in this time period. We follow Peter (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) as they set out to expose an enigmatic young woman named Maggie who is amassing followers in her basement under the provision that she is from the future. Yep, that's right a time traveler. I'm sure if you've seen the trailer you already know how well this piece of information is used and if you have seen the film I'm sure you know how well this device is used throughout the story to speak for so much more. Both Peter and Lorna set out as documentary filmmakers intent on trying to expose Maggie for what she is whether that be a liar, a fraud, or more than likely a loon. They are brave in their attempts to delve into this cult and fearless in the solace that there is nothing truly bad that can happen to them. They are only getting in deep enough to pull the lid off the whole thing. At least, that is where we stand when the movie begins and we meet our two protagonists as they are secretly escorted to their first meeting with Maggie. Naturally, the more they learn about Maggie's world and the more their individual personalities begin to match the information they are receiving the line becomes blurred on what their objective really is and it makes them question one another. They are a loving couple, a pair in their mid-twenties looking for their spot in the world together, but by the end of the film Maggie has not just driven a gap between them she has possibly made them realize who they truly are. We don't know the truth of what is going on and we are never told flat out what to think. This is not only a point of frustration with the film, but it is of course what makes the whole thing so mind-blowing.

Maggie (Brit Marling) claims to be from the future and
has amassed quite a following who believe her.
What truly grabs you about the film though is in fact just what causes that rift between our heroes. That is the trick of the film, that is where the hook lies. It is within Maggie. We are as unaware of her charisma at the beginning as Peter and Lorna and are allowed to make our own assertions of her as we learn and watch her as they do. We are allowed to be captivated by her and we are allowed to be cautious. The fact the movie doesn't tell us what to think not only makes the plausibility of this feel all the more real, but it puts us in that always interesting realm of what would we do if we were in that situation. If this really were the circumstances we were facing would you believe Maggie? The answer to that will likely be a debate as the ending is purposefully ambiguous and leaves it open to your own interpretation. Several days after viewing the film I'm still not sure what side of the fence I land on. I've tried going back and watching trailers again, trying to revisit the evidence that we were provided. If anything all that I've come up with is that there are more plot points I want to examine and better understand on repeat viewings. The reason we become so involved though, the reason we indeed have such a debate over whether to believe the practical or the unbelievable is the unflinching performance of Brit Marling. Though a good number of folks were disappointed in her other Sundance offering Another Earth, I found it extremely engaging and full of questions and thoughts it didn't really know the answers to itself. There was nothing wrong with that, I found it a good meditation on the "what-if's" and Sound of My Voice operates in a similar sphere while giving us a more seductive central character. The film makes us believe in th epossibility of time travel because of Maggie's caring tone and forceful, commanding presence. She coaxes all of her followers and the audience into feeling what she wants and then lets us decide what we want to do with them where we want to take them and if we want to believe.

Lorna (Nicole Vicius) gets some shooting lessons from a
fellow cult member.
The whole feeling of being in the eye in the storm is what gives us as an audience the right to feel as if we are a part of what is going on on screen and that feeling, in these events, is what will make you talk about it and debate the ending on the way home. It is what I loved about the film besides the loveliness of the premise. I am so happy to see that Marling has a taste for the science fiction elements while grounding them in a very practical world. It is a look into what would actually might be going on if there just happened to be a time traveler in the reality of our world. It is almost more magical than watching sci-fi films with large spectacle and that day dream palette. There is something awe-inspiring about how simple this is while also being smart enough to leave it completely open for interpretation. I haven't spent much time on the performances, but they are all perfectly tunes as Denham proves a great anchor for this investigative aspect of the story that is going on while at times his voice is almost indistinguishable from that of Topher Grace's. Lorna is almost as equally captivating as Maggie despite not having the moments to lure us in. Vicius plays her with a subdued self-confidence that serves the character well in the final act of the film and shows a real arc. They are each able to find out who they are and we understand this as well with only the slightest of hints at their true character. We are all constantly changing, adapting, and being tested. It is not only a testament to the acting, but the script that exercises to a T that age old lesson of less being more. I still have not decided what I believe, whether Maggie is a fraud or not, and she is so varied in her representation it is unlikely I will ever decide to permanently go one way or another, but I love it and I can't wait to watch this film again to at least attempt to console myself with a more concrete conclusion.