With its brilliant cast of well-known names and quirky concept The Voices has been marketed as a comedy horror.
However this description not only undersells the films originality but also misses the mark in terms of the unsettling and somber tone it takes at times and the very serious subject matter the movie so expertly deals with.
Set in the tiny insular town of Milton where the majority of the town’s folk seem to work in the factory of the same name Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is an upbeat seemingly innocuous guy who spends his days dreaming about the pretty English girl Fiona (Gemma Arterton) who he is desperately in love with.
At his home above a bowling alley however things are very different for Jerry as he lives with his talking dog and cat his only friends in the world and his guiding voices in all things ever since he stopped taking his much needed medication.
His positive and good natured dog Bosco supports Jerry while the disgusting hate filled rantings of Mr. Whiskers make him question himself constantly especially when it comes to asking Fiona on a date which he ultimately decides to do.
Things take a turn for the worse when she stands him up but fate brings them back together except all does not end as either had hoped it would. With blood on his hands and Fiona’s talking head in his fridge Jerry’s world starts spinning desperately out of control and his hopes of salvation seem to lie in Fiona’s friend Lisa (Anna Kendrick) who might just offer Jerry a second chance at finally being normal.
Although many films from old classic comedies like Harvey to serious dramas like A Beautiful Mind to straight up slasher’s like Manic have focused on central characters who hear voices all these movies have treated the protagonist with varying degrees of sensitivity and compassion especially in the horror genre where it is often just a lazy shorthand in creating an evil psychopath.
As mentioned The Voices has been labelled as a black comedy and there are elements of humor within it some light and others ultra-dark however it doesn’t prepare you for the many disturbing and heart breaking scenes that pepper the film which skillfully and seamlessly changes gear from a surreal Coen Brothers-esque insight into a small town to a fear filled horror to a touching quirky romance to a meditation on loneliness and humanities many inner demons.
This tag also belittles the valiant attempt director Marjane Satrapi (who made the Oscar nominated animation Persepolis) and writer Michael R. Perry make to explore a sympathetic and complex character suffering from server mental illness.
Utalising restrained but very effective special effects to accentuate his condition and blur the line between fantasy and reality Marjane Satrapi helps us see into Jerry’s world however it is Ryan Reynolds outstanding performance that transforms the character and the film far beyond what it could have been.
Constantly challenging himself in films like the superb Buried and the multiple faceted The Nines Reynolds obviously is not afraid to put himself on the line and truly inhabit a role and this imbues Jerry with a sympathetic and tragic center that endears the audience immediately.
As the story unfolds taking darker turns Reynolds remains believable and likable even when he is doing terrible things, the physical damage he does counterbalanced by the psychological damage he suffered as a child which we see in various flashbacks.
Entertaining and deeply effecting Marjane Satrapi’s movie is much more than it first seems and Ryan Reynolds yet again proves he has more to offer cinema than roles in rom-coms and superhero franchises.
The Voices reveals the scary truth that we all have voices inside of us constantly trying to undermine and destroy our self-confidence and self-worth and it is accepting and living with those voices that one of the hardest things to do especially when they come from a foul mouthed cat with a Scottish accent.