Magnetic Maggie (Britt Marling, who is also a co-writer along with director Zal Batmanglij) keeps her followers rapt with tales of the future – specifically the year 2054, from whence she came. Seemingly dropped into a drug den in Los Angeles’ skid row, the beautiful yet disease-doomed blonde finds her way to the safety of the suburbs, holes up in a cozy basement, and starts a cult. Her malleable minions, numbering just a few, make it their mission to add more to their faithful cloister. This captures the attention of debunkers and undercover documentarians, Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius). The young, married couple infiltrate the group, pretending to play into Maggie’s hands, but before long the lines between reality and fantasy blur and the trinity’s roles and goals may not hold true.
There are a couple of threads of story thrown in to keep the mystery of Maggie’s origins and intentions afloat – namely, that she’s come back in time to find her mother (who’s still a little girl in our present day) and to hopefully prevent a series of disasters which will soon befall the planet. A sense of urgency is added to the mix, when she reveals that she’s dying of a mysterious terminal illness that affects her blood. In so doing, she elicits fear, sympathy, and vulnerability all at once.
While Sound of my Voice is being marketed as a horror movie, and while there is a certain level of suspense buoyed by a kinda-sorta-maybe sci-fi time travel aspect, it’s more a drama on par with the recent, similar, Martha Marcy May Marlene. If you’re expecting satanic twists along the lines of House of the Devil or The Last Exorcism, drop’em. Nary a splash of blood is spilt (not counting Maggie’s daily transfusions), nor is Kool-Aid served at any point; but there are a few hair-raising scenes showing the power of a forceful personality and how even the most seemingly strong-willed independent thinker can be coaxed onto thin emotional ice.
While not a showy or stylistic film by any means, Sound of my Voice is impressive. Although it’s kind of a subtle mumblecore mishmash of K-Pax meets The Amazing Randy with just a touch of Aimee Semple McPherson doing a jive handshake (that’ll all make sense, once you’ve seen the film – promise!), and I can’t say I’ll ever have a jones (-town, or otherwise) to see it again, I do recommend it to those predisposed to character-driven, thought-provoking drama. A small, intimate film, Sound of My Voice can easily wait for VOD or DVD, but if you just can’t stand being at the back of the line, it is slated for limited theatrical release by Fox Searchlight on April 27.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson