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Till Human Voices Wake Us

1 rating: -3.0
A movie directed by Michael Petroni

In this tender tale of love and loss, Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter play two strangers mysteriously brought together by destiny. Sam (Pearce) is a psychology professor who has traveled back to his hometown for his father's funeral. There he … see full wiki

Director: Michael Petroni
Genre: Drama
Release Date: February 21, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Till Human Voices Wake Us

A childish story poorly told despite best efforts

  • Dec 22, 2007
Pros: Music, decent performance by Lindley Joyner.

Cons: Stiff, ham-fisted, plodding, totally predictable due to a telegraphed plot

The Bottom Line: Ultimately it is just boring. Even if you like the principle actors, don't bother with this, watch one you already like again.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

If you are going to telegraph an ending, your plot is gone, is a non-factor. What you have to focus on is building character and the tensions between. Obviously this, primarily, means acting; secondarily it means that camera work, lighting and sound have to play larger roles also. Take on the Titanic as a subject . . . everyone knows the ship is going to sink, so the storytellers and actors have to carry the weight (except for the actual movie were special effects were also there in abundance).

In Till Human Voices Wake Us, Dr. Sam Franks (Guy Pearce) is a psychology teacher. When we first see him he talks about the two kinds of forgetting: passive and active. From here, Sam’s father dies and wishes to be buried in his small Australian home town. Here the plotline splits in two and intermingles. Dr. Franks rescues a mentally and physically disheveled young woman, Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter) who is apparently going to commit suicide by leaping off of a train trestle into a river.

The second story line shows the young Sam (Lindley Joyner) is home from boarding school. He goes to the river and finds his friend Silvy (Brook Harmon). Their story is mostly bucolic. The town is small but that never presents a problem. They seem to have been fast friends from long ago, but now that puberty is setting in, during this summer vacation, this dynamic goes in a different direction.

As I said, the first 3 minutes of the film give the final 90 minutes away. So the question is, in the journey whose destination is known worth the effort of getting there.

Simply put: no. The story is not even a little new and auteur Michael Petroni doesn’t really bring anything new to this sort of purging demons story. He tries, but just doesn’t quite make it.

The dialog is stiff, the delivery stiff. I watched this because Ms. Carter has been one of my favorite actresses for 20 years now and I hadn’t heard of this one—now I know why. Neither she nor Mr. Pearce, who is also typically very good were able to make much of what they were given. Their facial expressions were actually good (indication of how hard Mr. Petroni was trying), but, alas this wasn’t a silent film.

The river plays a central role as does “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” but the imagery they try to produce is done as ham-fistedly as the plot itself. Their significance is so childishly obvious that even the moments of beauty seem more accidental than intentional.

Two things pull the film from the edge of the trash bin. The music is pervasive, but never really intrusive. It is just haunting enough to give the film its general purpose but it is also pretty (Dale Cornelius and Amotz Plessner). The second thing is the performance of Mr. Joyner. He wasn’t given any more to work with than any other character, but he seems to understand it a little better. Again, his expressions were on par with the more experienced actors, but he is able to deliver those stiff words with something carefree.

I can see how a film like this can look good in pieces. I can understand from “action” to “cut” for any scene, it is beautiful and tight; however, when the pieces are assembled what you get isn’t the beauty you thought you had in the bits and pieces.


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