Sound of My Voice ★★★½

Sometimes, all it takes is a few seemingly out-of-place scenes for an entire film to defy interpretation and even classification. What could otherwise be a rather sophomoric entry into the psychological thriller genre suddenly becomes a piece of 'practical sci-fi’. Or does it? In the end, that’s up for debate.

Initially conceived as the first in a trilogy, it’s easy to see how some of the questions, characters and themes might begin to get tied together as we learn more in future films, but there’s actually enough meat here to sink your teeth into if you’re interested in having more than a cursory viewing.

Sound of My Voice doesn’t answer all of the questions it poses, sure, and that’s kind of the whole point. But what piqued my interest was how controlled and intentional its loose ends were. It looks and feels like a low budget film, primarily due to the stark sets and limited cast. It’s tight, and flows in the way many psychological thrillers do, boiling to a climax and wrapping up quickly just as our brains begin to connect the dots. But there are two scenes in particular that scatter any assertion that the film is thin, flimsy or misguided (I’ve read many of them and disagree). For those who haven’t seen the film, I won’t spoil it for you here. But if you want to draw your own conclusions without any influence at all, stop reading here, because I’m going to mention two scenes in enough detail that you’ll recognize them as they unfold, and that may sway you or better or worse.

Okay?

Let’s proceed.

The first is a scene following a self-introduced government agent to a hotel room, where a package that she is unfamiliar with awaits. It’s all quite strange, but her use of the package is perhaps even stranger. The second scene of interest is one following another secondary character home, with a rather unusual and yet seemingly – for the character in question – all too familiar bedtime routine. The purpose of these scenes is never explained, but they serve to call into question some of the events that will happen later, making the climactic plot twist far deeper than it would first seem while extrapolating on the core themes in dark ways. Each provides several new questions without giving up even a single answer, which I can understand might rankle the disinterested viewer. But in those questions lies some new directions for where the ideas of this film could lead, and that’s what so thoroughly hooked me.

Rachel Morrison has an impressive eye, which I first noticed in Fruitvale Station, and this film is beautifully shot under her care. Sound of My Voice has a markedly similar tone to The East, also written by Marling and Batmanglij (I totally just noticed that guy has “Batman” in his name), and is crafted with the same subtle ominous undercurrents. It seems Marling has been developing a bit of a track record for her writing, and while this trilogy isn’t ever likely to see itself blossom past the first instalment, I do think Marling has a great deal of potential. Sound of My Voice is far from unproblematic, but its ideas are still resonating with me, so I would chalk this one up in the “success” column.

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