Review: The Voices

Ryan Reynolds has been Green Lantern. He has played Wade Wilson (AKA Deadpool) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and is set to reprise the role of the “merc with a mouth” in a solo film. Comic book fans know Ryan Reynolds because of these roles. The ladies know him because of his romantic comedy roles. But now, Ryan Reynolds stars in something very different…

The Voices is a genre-crossing horror/comedy film with a limited release in theaters and VOD sources, such as iTunes. Directed by Marjane Satrapi, the film follows socially awkward and sweet Jerry, a blue collar worker at a faucet and fixture factory, who is struggling to find companionship. After one date gone murderously wrong, Jerry ends up on a different path than anyone could imagine, listening to the voices of his cat and dog for advice. Check out the trailer here.

The trailer doesn’t lie. Anyone who chooses to watch the movie should know they are going to be in for something that is off the beaten path. The independent film does not disappoint! While quirky and silly, the film very seriously deals with the issues associated with mental illness and hearing voices. The contrast between the real world and the world seen through the eyes of a mentally ill individual lie in stark contrast to one another, creative illustrated by the bright bubblegum colors of Jerry’s perspective and the drab, dark hues of the “real” world. Jerry adeptly explains why he doesn’t like to take his court-ordered medications, as they bring him to a reality that is cold and lonely. While he understands that without the medications there can be terrible moments, Jerry tells his therapist that there are also moments of great beauty and wonder to be enjoyed. The voices of Jerry’s cat and dog, while truly voices of his own making, are the comfortable company Jerry so deeply desires after genetic predisposition and a traumatic childhood have scarred him.

One of the greatest attributes of the film is its ability to deal with a serious topic irreverently, but with such a levity and honesty that it is endearing. The cat and dog act to Jerry as the proverbial angel and demons on our own shoulders. (I’ll give you one guess which of those animals personifies the dark side and which one the light.) What we see is a visual and auditory personification of good and evil and the juxtaposition between them made even more dramatic by the mediator between the two sides being a mentally disturbed man who understands a desire to be good rather than evil, but naively doesn’t seem to understand how to be one or the other.

The writers have created a wonderful story, allowing the audience to like Jerry and feel for him. Developing an attachment to the main character then allows the viewer to side with him as the protagonist throughout the rest of the film, regardless of any wrongs he may commit. (And there are several wrongs the viewer must reconcile with as the film progress.) Once we see the world through Jerry’s eyes, we then see his home and world as it actually is and begin to understand why he chooses to seek solace in his pets. His pain as the story goes on becomes the audience’s pain; his confusion and desire for truth and healing leave us rooting for him to figure things out.

While many blockbusters in the theater today require action and special effects to move the story along, The Voices needed only a strong actor in the lead. Ryan Reynolds did not disappoint in his portrayal of Jerry. Reynolds proves his abilities, acting not only as the main character, but also voicing all other supporting characters who are figments of his imagination (to include a feline with a Scottish accent), creating a unique sound for each voice. The role of Jerry required an actor with the ability to cover several facets of the human condition. In some cases, Jerry comes across as a normal guy. Other times, Jerry seems to be stuck in boyhood, not fully understanding what adulthood truly entails. Ryan Reynolds plays the part with ease, showing us a character who is rich in emotion – happy and friendly, an apparently well adjusted individual, while on the flip side a man who is terrified and lonely, torn between right and wrong. The sincerity with which Reynolds plays the role is refreshing. This character might easily have been portrayed as campy or silly, but instead Reynolds manages to walk a fine line, being almost ridiculous but oddly believable. The supporting cast, which includes Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick are also a joy to watch on screen, providing fresh faces for Reynolds to play off of, giving solid performances of their own alongside the lead.

This quirky limited release film is worth a glance. Walk into it with an open mind and a compassionate heart for the struggles of those with psychological disorders and you’ll find the movie to be an insightful look mental illness. This creative endeavor is worth the experience.

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