Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
While it would be easy to categorise The Voices as a black comedy, that would really be doing it a disservice. It actually manages to cover quite a lot of ground when it comes to cinematic genres. Elements of horror, drama, romance, fantasy, musical and mystery are all prevalent and remarkably well balanced throughout the hundred minute run time. When you truly dig beneath the surface though, what you find is a quirky and unsettling psychological thriller that makes for compelling viewing.
The story follows mild mannered and seemingly harmless factory worker Jerry as he goes about his daily business with a skip in his step and a smile on lips. However, as we delve deeper into Jerry’s mind it’s soon revealed that all is not what it seems. We discover that this otherwise well meaning individual is tormented by a sinister past and a split personality that manifests itself as voices representing different aspects of his psyche.
As the plot progress, it takes on an increasingly dark and murderous tone. Perhaps the most disturbing thing though is not the perversity of the actions committed on screen, but rather how they are presented. The movie adopts a deceptively lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek approach to some shockingly graphic and gory scenes that subverts the truth of their savagery. But this just demonstrates how successful the script is in immersing viewers into Jerry’s mind and showing them the world from his perspective.
The comedic undertone of some of the protagonist’s most heinous undertakings is just an illusion. The story never truly loses sight of just how abhorrent Jerry’s crimes are. While this is essentially a first person narrative told from his point of view, it’s the few instances during which we see things through the eyes of others that the disturbing reality of what’s going on is hammered home, resulting in some extremely tense and nerve-racking moments.
It’s a testament to both how the movie deals with the issue of schizophrenia and the performance of star Ryan Reynolds that Jerry remains consistently sympathetic. You genuinely believe that it’s not his intention to do harm or hurt anyone; that he’s simply incapable of comprehending or processing the grim actuality and implications of his deeds. Reynolds channels an innocence and emotional intensity through his portrayal that’s incredibly hard hitting and makes you feel sorry for the character, who comes across as tragic rather than villainous.
It’s somewhat ironic then that the most outright nefarious individual in the piece is the cat, Mr. Whiskers, who at the end of it all is just an extension of the protagonist’s own personality. The titular voices serve as both Jerry’s coping mechanism and his biggest problem. His pet cat is representative of his latent psychopathy. Although, despite being aware of the malevolence of his suggestions, Mr. Whiskers is perhaps the most entertaining character in the film, being afforded some genuine laugh out loud moments. This is owed to the wonderfully absurd Scottish accent Reynolds conjured up to voice the part and the sheer ridiculousness of an evil talking cat.
His canine companion, Bosco, also gets some amusing dialogue, serving as Jerry’s conscience and sense of morality, but is constantly outshone by Mr. Whiskers as the unorthodox comic relief.
Talking animals aside, Reynolds is offered strong support by Anna Kendrick as Lisa. Her perfect performance succeeds in making the sweet and kindly office worker just as sympathetic and likable as Jerry. A very cute chemistry develops between the two which leaves you wanting to root for them as a couple. Through his interactions with Lisa, Jerry almost seems normal, which at times nearly makes him and the viewer forget what it is that he is capable of doing. It all means that the pair’s burgeoning relationship creates a huge amount of tension and suspense, being difficult to watch with the potential for tragedy ever looming.
Gemma Arterton’s Fiona, on the other hand, may not win many over the way Lisa does, but the actress does a fine job as the self-absorbed “office hottie”. Spending a high percentage of her screen time in a rather unconventional circumstance, Arterton is instrumental in adding to the disconcertingly dark atmosphere of the proceedings.
There are a lot of levels to The Voices. At face value, it appears to be a mesh of comedy and horror but when you consider all of the factors at play, it’s actually a thorough and chilling exploration of mental illness. The insightful, well executed premise alongside the engaging efforts of its talented stars and some complex character development mean that as a movie it remains completely gripping from start to finish.
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