Movie Review - Sound of My Voice

Christopher Denham and Brit Marling
in "Sound of My Voice"
Brit Marling (Another Earth) stars as Maggie, a 24-year-old woman with long, blonde hair who claims to be a time traveler from the year 2054. The fundamental question is if she's telling the truth or is she crazy or is she lying to trick people so that she can accomplish some nefarious plot. A couple, also in their mid-twenties, named Peter Aiken and Lorna Michaelson, played respectively by Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius, have come to know Maggie somehow and are out to expose her for whom she really is.

The film focuses on Peter and Lorna and how far they'll go to expose Maggie. The film explores what each is willing to do and why they may or may not be willing to do it. If you take away the time travel aspect, Maggie is ostensibly a cult leader. With any cult or even any religion, it always starts with one person having knowledge or a message of the future or of the way things should be. With Maggie, there is a science-fiction element, but, in this day and age, how would you get people to believe her without physical proof?

The first step is to find people who are easily swayed, who are desperate or vulnerable or who might be susceptible to the message. This film, which was co-written by Brit Marling, doesn't show us that step. We see that Maggie has amassed a dozen people or so, but how those particular people were gathered or chosen is left to wonder.

The second step is to break those people emotionally and psychologically. The third step is to test their loyalties. The fourth step is to tell them the plan and the fifth step is to execute that plan. This film shows us the second step and the third step, but the fourth and fifth are again left for us to wonder.

We could assume that the fourth and fifth steps involve Maggie encouraging something similar to what was seen in Wanderlust, hippies who live in a commune, grow organic foods and live naturally and peacefully. Obviously, she's not forcing anyone to be there, but there are moments that are akin to the cult in Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), which could turn Maggie's strict yet sweet nature in deadly violence. Director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij imbues a tone to this film that suggests the latter.

The story pivots when a little girl named Abigail is weaved into the plot. Maggie becomes interested in Abigail, believing they're connected in some way. The first time we see Maggie, her head is covered with a veil almost like a Muslim woman. One striking image of Abigail is graffiti on her that reads "terrorist." Of course, not all terrorists are Muslim, but, in a post 9/11 world that connection can't be helped but be made.

Whether Maggie is a time traveler or whether she's here to do good or not, her shroud of secrecy doesn't help the cause and without knowing what her ultimate goal was, it all becomes moot. All we're left with are three great performances from Marling, Denham and Vicius. All three get scenes, which really allow them to give the audience a gut punch. For Marling, it's the scene where Maggie sings "Dreams" by The Cranberries and then is asked to prove she's from the future. For Denham, it's the scene where he has to vomit and, for Vicius, it's the scene where her character Lorna kicks Peter out of their house. All three scenes demonstrate how strong the cast of actors here are.

The music on the soundtrack is also really strong. The song in the end credits might not have been written specifically for this film. Yet, it does work and is very catchy. It's "Thieves in the Night" by Hot Chip.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, sexual references and brief drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.


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