Sound of My Voice
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Writer/actress Brit Marling seems poised to become the next big indie darling, turning heads in 2011’s less-than-satisfying sci-fi drama Another Earth to become one of Hollywood’s Ones to Watch. Now, in her follow-up, Sound of My Voice, Marling once again exhibits her talent for drawing her audience close, only to leave them hanging in the end.

Somewhere, in a secret location, hidden in a basement, lives Maggie (Marling), an ailing young woman who claims to be a time traveler from 2054. Since she first arrived in the present two years ago, she’s been amassing a group of the most devoted followers, preparing them for the civil war and destruction that’s to come.

Determined to reveal Maggie as a fraud, aspiring documentary filmmakers Peter Aitken (Christopher Denham) and Lorna Michaelson (Nicole Vicius) go through the arduous process of becoming members of Maggie’s inner circle in order to capture the experience on film. But as they endure the tests and go through the rituals, it soon becomes hard to tell whether the two are simply playing along for the sake of the film or they’re starting to get drawn in by the mesmerizing young woman.

Just as potential members are drawn into a cult’s irresistible pull, audiences will be captivated by the quiet suspense of director Zal Batmanglij’s haunting debut, Sound of My Voice. From the opening scenes, in which Peter and Lorna go through the rigorous steps to meet Maggie for the first time, it’s an undeniably arresting film.

The questions begin arising early on. You’ll wonder about the characters—especially Maggie, the calmly compelling leader, whose gentle demeanor is incredibly effective. With a knowing look or a simple touch, she’s able to manipulate and control. And Marling makes it all believable, quietly but confidently drawing the audience in just as Maggie draws followers.

The story, meanwhile, is every bit as captivating as the character. Sound of My Voice is definitely a slow and simple film, without action, effects, or even a booming score to hold your attention. Still, as Peter and Lorna get deeper and deeper into the cult, you’ll be eager to learn more—to find out about Maggie’s real identity and her true intentions. You’ll be interested to see whether the couple can resist Maggie’s pull, and you’ll wonder how it’ll all come together in the end.

Unfortunately, viewers who expect even the slightest bit of closure at the conclusion of a film will be left feeling frustrated (and maybe just a little bit robbed) by the end (or perhaps I should call it the “stop”) of Sound of My Voice. Instead of a satisfying conclusion—complete with answers to at least a few of the questions that arise throughout the film—the end of the film raises even more questions.

Sound of My Voice is certainly a gripping drama, with suspense-filled storytelling and a mesmerizing up-and-coming star. It’s a treat for those who enjoy the ambiguity of an open-ended film, since it leaves audiences with plenty to ponder and debate after the credits roll. But those who expect an answer or two in the end will find it absolutely maddening.

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