‘Sound of My Voice’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 26th, 2014 at 7:38 pm,

Sound of My Voice starring Brit Marling Chris Denham and Nicole Vicius Review Sound of My Voice Review

Those who like their endings left open so that they can ponder and theorize about a philosophical story: Sound of My Voice provides a whole lot to mull over and analyze.

In Sound of My Voice we are confronted with an immediate question of faith, as would-be documentarian Peter Aitken (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) are brought into a local cult to meet its leader, the beautiful and mesmerizing Maggie (co-writer and star Brit Marling). The rabbit hole gets even deeper as Maggie reveals an implausible story to her new recruits: she claims to be a traveler from the future (2054 to be exact), sent back to gather those faithful who are ready to be trained in how to survive (both literally and figuratively) in the harsh era to come.

Peter and Lorna initially enter the cult’s ranks with the shared aspiration of exposing Maggie as a fraud; however, as they become more involved with the group, Maggie’s alluring charisma and unnerving insight begins to lace Peter and Lorna with doubts about her fraudulence, their own relationship, and even their views of who they are as people.

Richard Warton Chris Denham and Nicole Vicius in Sound of My Voice Sound of My Voice Review

Sound of My Voice is the first feature-length film by writer/director Zal Batmanglij, and covers much of the same terrain as The Recordist, a short film which marked his first collaboration with Marling. The pair seem most concerned with telling open-ended stories shaded with familiar sci-fi concepts, presented in grounded ways that leave the philosophical quandaries wide open without the necessity for elaborate (or arbitrary) effects or sequences. Of course, fans of the genre who like the aesthetic pleasures of spaceships, aliens, flashy time portals or futuristic technology aren’t going to find much to enjoy in what is ostensibly a stripped-down indie movie with a sci-fi premise.

Batmanglij and Marling’s approach to storytelling is sure to be even more divisive, as much of the film focuses on scenes of the cult gathered together in the basement, as Maggie offers heavy-handed (and often gross) sermons. She claims that hers is a future in which there is no room for self-deception, excess, illusions of luxury or the crutch of technology – basically a reverse method of  critiquing (or even admonishing) the times we live in, and all the misguided things that we believe. Therein lies the real “point” of Sound of My Voice: to serve as a word of forewarning about the wrong path into an inevitable storm (society’s collapse) – and then, a roadmap for those looking for a new path (as hammered home by the moment when the title is referenced in the actual film).

Nicole Vicius and Christopher Denham in Sound of My Voice Sound of My Voice Review

Nicole Vicius and Christopher Denham in ‘Sound of My Voice’

It’s an interesting approach to a sci-fi story – but the film’s thematic accomplishments will largely be overlooked, as most viewers will likely focus on their frustration with how the central mystery of the narrative (is Maggie from the future or not?) is left without resolution – as are the subplots and dangling threads the movie also introduces. These “dropped balls” include two side-stories that run parallel to the main narrative: one involving a little girl at the school Peter teaches at, who continuously exhibits strange, obsessive behaviors; the other is that of a woman named Carol Briggs (Davenia McFadden), who arrives in town claiming to have knowledge of Maggie’s true origins.

Both of these side-stories are important, as they converge with the main thread to create the (sudden and cumbersome) climatic act of the movie – but again, by the time things pull together, most viewers will be frustrated with the fact that the finale only inspires more questions, without concretely answering anything.

To their credit, Batmanglij, Marling and lead actors Denham and Vicius manage to create a truly spellbinding atmosphere for the film. Marling is definitely the standout, effortlessly pulling off the combination of charisma, mystery, allure and sometimes frighting intensity that makes Maggie such a captivating character. If nothing else, Sound of My Voice proves that Marling is capable of breakout stardom – both in front of and behind the camera.

Brit Marling as Maggie in Sound of My Voice Sound of My Voice Review

Brit Marling as Maggie in ‘Sound of My Voice’

Those who like their endings left open so that they can ponder and theorize about a philosophical story: Sound of My Voice provides a whole lot to mull over and analyze. Those who are not big fans of being left with more and questions than answers, will definitely arrive at disappointment (and scorn) for a film that teased them with so much, only to leave them feeling cheated and confused by the end. Yet and still, Sound of My Voice is an interesting approach to indie sci-fi, created by some bright new talents. It may not be the pinnacle of Batmanglij and Marling’s work together (maybe that will be their already-in-production next film, The East?), but it’s a pretty solid introduction.

Sound of My Voice is now playing in limited theatrical release. It is Rated R for language including some sexual references, and brief drug use.

Watch the trailer for the film below, or feel free to check out the first 10 minutes of the movie.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. mmmm, my understanding of the film is that there is never resolution as to whether or not she IS from the future or not.

    which means, despite the pretense of “time travel”, there is none in the film. making this a drama with a quirky idea behind it, and not a science fiction film.

  2. The idea that they will send one person back in time, to help a handful of people, doesn’t make any sense. Therefore, she’s not from the future, just a nut that thinks she is and is somehow able to get people to follow her, and soon after the movie, they all drink the cool-aid. The end… ;-)

  3. I like k pax with kevin spacey see that istead. You are left to wonder if he really is an alien. their is evidence that suggest he is and isn’t people don’t give that movie more cred.

    • Wrong wrong wrong wrong,
      wrong wrong wrong wrong…

  4. But sometimes movies are not resolved, and that can still make them fascinating. Look at Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges). You can interpret the movie as one man’s delusions, or you can interpret it that there really is some magic in the world, he’s being pursued by the fantastic and the holy grail really exists. It’s still a terrific movie, no matter how you interpret it.

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  6. So if she isn’t from the future, then this isn’t a sci-fi movie right? It’s just a drama about a cult. Otherwise, if this is a sci-fi movie it’s because she is a time traveler from the future, yes?

  7. So it’s just another Indie movie with desaturated cinematography presenting an interesting topic that’s overshadowed by it’s attempt to be clever? Ugh, it’s Primer all over again.

  8. Brit Marling is simply fascinating. I first discovered her in an indie film called Another Earth (a fascinating film).Brit Marling draws you in to the story, she makes you feel like you are there with her, forces you to think & enables you to feel. With good story telling, there is no need for fancy effects. if you enjoy Hollywood garbage like madea or anything with harrison ford,,, this film is not for you. This is a Film! not a movie!!

    • I watched Another Earth because the trailer made it look interesting, but honestly, there were so many things that could have been done differently that would have made it have a whole lot more impact. Overall I found the movie pretty bland, didn’t really find myself sympathizing with any of the characters. And I felt their relationship wasn’t developed enough for the ending to have any kind of impact.

  9. Spoilers?
    There is a reason to believe Maggie is from the future (how else could her secret handshake get out) and the questions left suggest a Terminator plot (the “agent” after her with the weird tech) BUT
    there is too much left unanswered, from a story point of view.
    Forget scifi, and what might look smart. Why is this movie engaging but also a swarm of riddles?
    Another Earth was better. It’s the reason I saw this, and why I expected a more solide ending.

  10. i saw this one night on a whim and it made me feel really really really pissed off

  11. What happens?! I would like a whole summery please.

    • Read my post it’s all about a scam plot. not the future

  12. i just watched this movie. Found it in my local Redbox and thought it looked and sounded interesting. I was completely drawn in and thought it was a great movie till the end. Are you kidding me? It felt like I should insert disc 2. It basically stopped right in the middle and never answered any questions. The acting was great, the movie was great till the end. I would even be happy knowing there was a part 2 coming to answer my questions but doesn’t seem so. Very very frustrating!!!

  13. One thing I’ve searched high and low for on the Internet but no one else seems to have caught is the other ‘riddle’ of the fact the FBI woman said to Peter basically “Oh she asked for you to bring her a child!?” (Smirking) “Wait till you hear what they do with them / plan on doing with the child”… I was like- WTF!? This to me proves that she IS just a con/ psychopath up to no good and the fact she knew the ‘secret handshake’ could have easily been something she knew about the little girl through spying on her, and to make her Tory seem more real and fascinating to her followers. She’d probably done it before using different ‘secret codes’ garnered from various children probably to get people to believe her and mass scum code or something.

    Overall though, the unanswered ending of this film pissed me off. What a waste of my time.

    • Honestly, the lady asking if Maggie requested a child yet suggests Maggie is from the future. At least for me. First, Maggie is “wanted” for arson and armed robbery. That’s it. The justice lady, Carol, said Maggie was BEGINNING to get followers. So if this is the first time Maggie is garnering a following, what other time would Maggie have had to ask someone for a child. The Carol lady is not who she claims to be. She knew Maggie would ask for a child because she is from the future most likely. I mean come on. The lady checked her room for bugs. Why would you do that if you were just investigating armed robbery and arson?

    • Plus how did Maggie get the yearbook? Most likely her mother gave it to her in the future. Also, how did she know one of her followers would have access to a child and more specifically her mother?

      • how did she get the school album ? When she comes back from 2054, she wakes up in a bathtub, without luggage … which is a mistake in the scenario

        • That’s a good question. This movie has a lot of inconsistantcies.

    • Watch it again. Really watch it. Their are alot more clues.

  14. *story not Tory
    *mass suicide not mass scum code!! Damn phone!! Lol.

  15. *story not Tory
    *mass suicide not mass scum code!! Darn
    phone!! Lol.

  16. Super good review. I loved the movie, my roommate loved it and the review just told us why.

    • and I meant to say that my room mate hated it

  17. This was simple “- stupid movie”.

  18. You people don’t get it. This whole story is about a con scam. Maggie shows the little girl the secret handshake. Maggie is not from the future. The litle girl is not Maggie’s mother. The little girl is Maggie’s daughter. All the people involved are in on the scam. Peter falls into the cult partially because of his past. Lorna figures it out and stays focused on the original goal. Their are tons of clues as to what is really happening.

    • This answers all the questions. Did you work this out yourself?

      • yes

        • I have to dissagree. i want to believe you but there are still to many things that give a stronger suggestion that Maggie was from the future. Why was this weird little girl playing with legos. And what drug was she being given in the foot.

          Also if she was some girl that that wanted to see her daughter, for the girl to remember the hand shake, but not her own mother doesn’t seem plausible, plus why would ‘carol’ go into the hotel room and and sweep the room for bugs if it was something simple as arson and robbery. I think she really was from the future, and the FBI/CIA or whomever, was trying to cover it up by making up a simple story that made sense and answered questions.

          As crazy as this sounds, her being from the future makes a lot more sense, than her not being from the future.

          • i meant black legos

          • The drug given to the little girl (between the toes, (like to hide the injecton) is so she doesn’t remember her real mother (whom you never see in the same room as the father.

            • There’s no drug that gonna make you remember one major detail of your life. That wouldn’t make sense. If they had a drug to remove/suppress memories, the little girl wouldn’t have remembered that her secret hand shake was ‘her secret handshake’. Otherwise, she would have been bewildered by not knowing how the she magically knew this handshake. That drug would have to not only suppress memories but create new ones. And im pretty sure if that drug could do that, we would have been watching a movie about a miracle drug, rather than one about time travel.

  19. Great movie. Another Earth also very good. Thought provoking with some truth or at least theory.

  20. Loved this movie – and I’m really impressed with Brit Marling, despite the realization I’ll never see her in a movie that doesn’t drive me to the internet immediately afterward searching for explanations! I concluded that Maggie was separated from her daughter – for physical or mental health reasons – and Abigail’s secret handshake is something she learned from her Mom when she was too young to remember. Anyway, like others who posted earlier, I think this story has lots of room to become the beginning of a great trilogy or something!

  21. So, it’s very clear to me that the main character, Maggie is very mentally ill. Perhaps some form of post traumatic stress mixed with schizophrenia etc? Why? She has memory loss, hallucinates, and makes up memories that aren’t real.

    What about the little girl? I agree that is her daughter who appears to be suffering from some kind of mental illness as well. Why is her Dad injecting her? How often have you heard of children inheriting similar genes from their parents who have mental illness. Their likelihood is far greater. And if she has whatever “Maggie” has then her memory is not clear either.

    Maggie taught that handshake to her daughter probably years before the cult was started, while she was committing crimes. Who knows how old the daughter was and what her state of mind was like, and what drugs she’s been given? It’s honestly a very sad story.

    As per the officer, I’d say C.I.A. or F.B.I. The room cleaning seemed precautionary. That was a clever throw off. Someone knows that Maggie is just as smart as she is crazy.

    There is new group of people who believe that these types of people aren’t really sick and that they have some clue into the universe. It’s very scary and quite dangerous. Perhaps this is what the director was trying to hit upon?

    • This sounds good and probably makes the most sense yet

  22. My initial thought was that the little girl (Abigail) was actually Maggie as a child. It makes the most sense because of the fascination for this specific child, she knew her school and handshake, she probably kept the yearbook all those years, the little girl also possessed strange behavior. I picked up that the girl was molested and the connection that Maggie had with the girl was on a deeper level, she could relate and really knew this child…. Because she was likely looking at herself. The fact she could relate to Peter’s story about being molested shows of her own experience from her childhood.

    One of many clues…. The child covered her head, as did Maggie. In the final scene, Maggie relates to her and suggests they both remove their hat/scarf together, as if she were aware of this fear or need to hide her hair. I forget now… Did Maggie always cover her head throughout the movie, like the child?

    If Abigail was actually Maggie as a child then there is a connection to Peter, since he knows the child from the school he teaches at. So that would explain the closer bond that Maggie had with Peter…that she knew him as a child. Her need to meet herself as a child could be an attempt to help herself through a difficult time in her life.

    I just watched the beginning again. When Peter first arrives at the cult headquarters he is greeted with the handshake. It’s the exact same handshake that the young child (Abigail) claimed was her personal handshake that she came up with. Maggie already knew it as she was using it in her cult gathering. Abigail was Maggie as a child, that is where the handshake originated. This is why Peter is stunned at the end when Maggie tells Abigail that she learnt the handshake from her. Peter saw the connection between them. Look also at Maggie’s foot as she enters the first scene… It has the scar from the shots she was getting as a child!

    When she speaks of her memories returning and seeing violent images, it seems that she was remembering her life growing up.

    One more point… When you watch it the second time things become clearer and the clues are there. Watch the beginning a second time. The movie gives the impression of a cult but when you watch the beginning of the movie a second time her opening scene sounds very honest. In fact, I think the movie was created to mess with your mind when much was shared at the beginning in my opinion. The beginning and end scenes very eye opening.

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  24. It seems clear to me. why does the black agent have to discreetly open her package in the hotel room and looks for a wire/ camera? The black lady seems to know the followers of the cult and what Maggie’s next action will be (when she ask id maggie already ask to meet the girl). It’s more likely that she might come from the future herself and try to sabotage Maggie’s believer, i kind of relate it to terminator’s plot in a way, she might be saving the offspring of her cult members in order to save the future.