Sundance 2014: “The Voices”

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how to write this review. When I saw this film, it absolutely floored me, and my adoration has grown in the time since I saw it. Yet trying to describe the film feels difficult, because it’s so very different from any film I’ve ever seen. Especially that ending. That was definitely new.

I suppose I should explain. This January, I had the oppurtunity to attend the Sundance film festival. Over six days, I saw 15 new films, some of which were rather horrific, and some of which were spectacular.

Yet there was one film which has stuck with me ever since, in a way I can’t quite shake. It was a film that made me not only remember what it was like to not only ‘really really like’ a movie, but to love one, wholeheartedly, without any reservations.

That film was Marjene Satrapi’s The Voices.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, the film follows a bright-eyed, small-town factory worker named Jerry. What starts off as an almost Disney-esque beginning (There’s no end to neon clothing, cartoonish sets, even an opening theme song) when you meet the cat.

It talks. Not only that, but it also insults, abuses, swears. Not only that, but it also speaks with a Scottish accent. Not only that, but it tells Ryan Reynolds to kill people. And as anyone would do when given a task by a talking animal, he obliges.

The film spins arounds wildly between tones for the rest of the movie, from absurdist comedy to horror to psychological thriller to tragedy. Yet it’s handles with such grace that the tonal switches never feel forced or inappropriate. Every decision made not only feels right, it also feels new.

Every several years or so, we get a movie that is truly unlike anything we’ve seen before. I’m not talking about a film such as The Tree of Life, which, while certainly different from many films, wasn’t exactly anything new in the avant-garde department. I’m talking about Donnie Darko, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Eraserhead, or Synecdoche, New York. All of these are drastically different films, yet they all have made me feel differently than any film I’ve seen before or since. They’re the films that are able to pair down on one true human desire, and depict it in such a manner that we walk out of the film not with a ‘message,’ but with a changed attitude.

The film is hugely entertaining, with a sharp screenplay and a monumentally great performance by Ryan Reynolds, yet it has true horrors within its screen time. Like M*A*S*H, or Harold and Maude, it finds life where others only see fear, sadness, and death. As the late Roger Ebert said, “We laugh so that we may not cry.” We feel sorry for Jerry, and his confused, troubled soul. Yet he figures out how to remain positive, and, as corny as it sounds, we do too.

This is certainly an odd movie, which polarized audiences at the festival, and will continue to polarize them when it’s released by Lionsgate hopefully later this year. Yet I believe those who believe this is somehow lacking aren’t seeing the full picture. They need to understand that the fear, and the horror, and the sadness in the film are all necessary to make the loopily hilarious moments work. It’s a story, nothing more. Yet it’s a story that makes one realize what true happiness is. It’s a miracle of a movie, really.

And that ending. It’s perfect.

(This film will most certainly be rated R, for language, disturbing content, and lots of bloody violence)