The Voices tells the story of a troubled but likable factory worker, Jerry (Reynolds), who spends his time smiling at work and then going home and having a conversation with his pets (simples). However, when he pursues an office crush the disastrous results turn his life upside down. Not opening with absolute darkness, The Voices slowly develops into a tale of modern day mental illness treatment with jet-black humour. The film, with its posters promoting the talking animals aspect, is actually a lot more grounded than you might expect, with the outlandish elements of the story being explained by the distressed thoughts of the lead character. Michael R. Perry’s (mostly great) script does sometimes fail to strike the best balance of humour and darkness. However, those minor missteps are just that, minor, in a film that is mostly a very interesting contemplation on mental illness - asking whether the real world is the most upsetting place of all.
The film features many fine turns; Gemma Arterton as the party prone British office worker Fiona; Anna Kendrick as the very considerate colleague Lisa; and Jacki Weaver as the (quite understanding) counsellor, Dr. Warren. However, The Voices does come to be a showcase for Ryan Reynolds, who not only plays Jerry but also voices the pets - loving Dog Bosco and rather mean cat Mr. Whiskers (the movie’s secret comedy weapons) - as his character’s psyche is fragmented into more and more parts throughout the film. Jerry may be hard to sympathise with for many but Reynolds gives him a sense of helplessness, as he is a decent but lost soul, stranded amidst his unmediated thoughts and haunted by his cruel upbringing. Though heavy handed at points, Jerry’s story is in essence a cautionary tale about aiding mental health issues before it is too late. And in the lead, Reynolds delivers a calling card of a performance, which proves that, in spite of what many say, he is a very underrated actor.
The Voices may not match the best of the genre’s output but with its visual embrace of the conflict between psychological fantasy and grim reality, the film is always interestingly painted and an outstandingly visual feature, recalling the palette of '60s suburbia and with the genre beats of Inside No. 9 and Psycho. It is not perfect, the end is a tad spontaneous (albeit the end credits are fun), and often the balance of darkness and laughter is not even. Still, especially for the right audiences, this is an enjoyable film, with a lot to say and even if you think it works or it doesn’t, it is impossible to deny the vigour of Satrapi’s film and likewise the exemplary performance by Reynolds.
All in all, The Voices is a film that makes an argument for honesty in mental health treatment but one which also tells an engaging and stylish age-old story of the conflict between light and darkness (which is often very well thought-out). Plus, there has never been a film to get into the mind of cats better than this one - demanding, sweary and somewhat evil… but we love them!
Special Features: Interviews / Two featurettes / Extended scenes / Deleted scenes
THE VOICES /CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MARJANE SATRAPI / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL R. PERRY / STARRING: RYAN REYNOLDS, GEMMA ARTERTON, ANNA KENDRICK, JACKI WEAVER / RELEASE DATE: JULY 13TH