Iranian graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi first came to the attention of cinema goers across the globe with her Oscar-nominated adaptation of her autobiographical book Persepolis. In her first English language film, The Voices, she takes us on a morally ambiguous journey filled with talking animals, singing butterflies and enough dismembered body parts to fill a cupboard full of Tupperware.
In a career high, Ryan Reynolds stars as Jerry, a charming yet socially awkward young man who, having spent his life in various psychiatric institutions, begins working at a bathtub factory in order to adapt to normality. Helped by his shrink, Dr Warren (a delightfully inept Jacki Weaver), everything seems to be going okay for Jerry. That is until a bungled date ends up with the “accidental” death of his paramour Fiona (Gemma Arterton). As his world begins to spiral out of control, Jerry finds support from the voices in his head, projected into his cat, Mr. Whiskers, the foul-mouthed, malicious, (and for some reason Scottish) devil on Jerry`s left shoulder, and his dog Bosco, kindly loyal and striving to bring out the best in Jerry despite his rival`s efforts. From there on in, Jerry`s world becomes a Technicolor slaughterhouse filled with moral conflict and decapitation as he strives to be a good man in spite of his murderous tendencies.
The world of The Voices really reflects Satrapi`s comic-book roots; colourful, symmetrical and full of song. Indeed, the audience are lulled into the comfort of this world until the heart-wrenching yet inevitable death of Jerry`s co-worker Lisa (Anna Kendrick, playing to her adorably quirky strengths) when the shift in reality shows us that everything has simply been a figment of Jerry`s disturbed mind. The harshness of real life, oscillating between the clinical perfection that our protagonist sees and the filth-ridden, blood-soaked disorder of the truth shows off Satrapi`s keen eye for detail and ability to create strikingly different alternations of the same world.
What makes The Voices different from most horror-comedies, however, is the deep moral conflict within our “killer”. Ryan Reynolds truly shows off his ability to waver between charming, comic and emotionally torn in a touching depiction of a schizophrenic mind desperately striving to be a good man despite the voices in his mind telling him to do otherwise. Jerry is not the villain here; he is the tragic victim of his own illness in search of ultimate absolution. Voicing each of the different fragments of his mind, from Bosco and Whiskers to a sock bunny and a goldfish, each with an individual and memorable character, The Voices is almost a solo show-reel for Reynolds` talent.
A genre-bending feast, The Voices is a dark and grisly horror-comedy-drama-musical which certainly won`t be to everybody`s tastes, but with a fantastic cast, some very innovative direction, and the blackest of humour, it is certainly the most original film we`ve seen in a long time. Tense, hilarious and darkly delicious, The Voices is a bloody smorgasbord of morbid delights.
Dir: Marjane Satrapi
Scr: Michael R. Perry
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver
Prd: Roy Lee, Adi Shankar, Spencer Silna, Matthew Rhodes
DOP: Maxime Alexandre
Music: Oliver Bernet
Run time: 103 mins
The Voices is released on DVD, BluRay and limited edition Zavvi.com Steelbook through Arrow Films on Monday 13 July 2015.