out of Five
Running time: 84
Smartly written, well made and superbly acted indie thriller that makes the most of its low budget and confirms co-writer/star Brit Marling as a talent to watch, though it's slightly let down by a frustrating climax.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Zal Batmanglij, Sound of My Voice stars Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius as Peter and Lorna, two aspiring journalists who infiltrate a secret cult where the leader, Maggie (co-writer Brit Marling, who also co-wrote and starred in Another Earth) is a beautiful young woman who claims to be from the future. Is she a fraud or could she possibly be for real? And what's the significance of Abigail Pritchett (Avery Pohl), a reclusive young girl Peter encounters in his day job as a substitute teacher?
Brit Marling is terrific as Maggie, delivering all her lines in a measured, even tone in a manner that's as chilling and unsettling as it is relaxing. She also has creepily intense chemistry with Denham, which is used effectively in a key scene involving Peter's reluctance to engage in a group vomit session. Denham and Vicius are equally good and the dynamics of their relationship are sharply observed, creating a palpable tension as the cracks develop.
Batmanglij creates an extremely suspenseful atmosphere throughout, heightened by a fractured story structure (numbered sections that sometimes overlap) and some impressively claustrophobic camerawork from cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Thankfully, the film eschews the whole found footage idea, despite the fact that Peter is filming everything with a spy-cam embedded in his glasses; we're even spared a scene where they review their footage. The film has a great soundtrack and finds some intriguing uses for music, notably in a key scene where Maggie is asked to sing a song from her time.
The main problem with the film is that, having laid an enormous amount of groundwork and raised several compelling questions, it then rushes towards a climax that succeeds on one level but also ends too abruptly, almost as if the film was a pilot for a new TV show. Instead, it feels like the film-makers ran out of money or, worse, couldn't be bothered to actually play out any of their carefully laid story strands.
This is a well made, sharply written low-budget thriller with terrific performances from its three leads. Worth seeing and it would play well as part of a cult-themed triple bill with Martha Marcy May Marlene and Electrick Children.