The basic premise of the film is a journalist and his girlfriend has dedicated themselves to infiltrating this cult with the hope that they can uncover the truth surrounding its leader, Maggie, who claims she is from the year 2054. We pick up with the couple’s initiation night and are introduced to the mesmerizing Maggie and you quickly begin to understand why she has a following. Maggie is mysterious, bizarre, and completely compelling. As the film roles on we see our leads, Peter and Lorna, get pulled in deeper and deeper and their motives evolve the more time they spend with the cult.
The film has an element of sci-fi, but there isn’t an effects shot in the movie; and it doesn’t need them. The film’s structure is in ten parts, all title carded, and even with that defined structure the film still plays with our perception. From out of nowhere character bios to random character introductions with no point of reference; the film doesn’t do you a ton of favors. That isn’t to say the film is hard to follow, it just asks you to be patient with it and you will get enough information needed to put the pieces together on your own. (The creators apparently planned on a potential continuation of the story so don’t except everything wrapped up in a perfect bow.)
I mentioned Marling in the opening and that is because she plays Maggie and helped write the script on top of that as well. The script walks a fine line of being almost too vague for many viewers, but the mysteries of the plot are made up for the great material given to Maggie in her ‘sermons.’ Marling gives herself these wonderful moments every time she shows up on the screen and she knocks it out of the park. Marling is radiant and intense as she talks to her people and her range of emotion is incredibly impressive. Marling is the supporting actress to beat this year, for me, and she will certainly be tough to top.
The rest of the cast isn’t as successful as Marling, that would be difficult, but no one really impressed me all that much either. Christopher Denham plays Peter a bit too dickish and I found it hard to sympathize with or get behind his character. Nicole Vicius is more successful and compassionate as Lorna and I was certainly on board with her. The problem is that her character gets the short end of the stick in the third act and gets rushed through a lot of decisions. Richard Wharton is successfully creepy and weird as Klaus and he was probably the second strongest in the cast behind Marling.
The third act in general seems a bit rushed and relies on a few too many easy convinces to keep the stories twists and turns unfolding. The big moment in the final chapter does land with its intended impact though and it forces you to rethink everything you have seen before it. The film is fast paced, never dull and its shortcomings are fairly easy to forgive, but if that third act wouldn’t have had its missteps this film could have really taken off to the next level.
The filmmaking on display is mighty impressive as it stands and they make a fine looking picture out of a budget which was probably next to nothing. The editing, the score/soundtrack, and the direction are all wonderful and it really sucks they could quite knock it out of the park in the third act. Maybe a bit too much mystery was left open for the film as a standalone work, but I hope these pieces are eventually filled in if the filmmakers are given the opportunity.
In the end, The Sound of my Voice is a coming out party for Brit Marling as she delivers what I am sure will be one of the best performances of the year. The film around her is intriguing and compelling for most of its run time and I would gladly watch more adventures in this world. The film does fall short in a couple places and has too easy of a third act, but there is enough mystery rolled in here that makes you want more. Thankfully the film never feels forced and Marling is worth the price of admission alone.
Sound of my Voice is a B+