Published May 10, 2012Sound of My Voice tells a strange but eerily familiar story. The setting plays a large role: the opening shots of the film take us from dark suburban streets through an empty, generic kitchen and eventually down into one particular basement. It's up to the audience to decide just how menacing this is.
Later it's revealed that the characters have travelled from Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, literally descending downward into suburbia, then descending even lower. Making this journey are Peter (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend, Lorna (Nicole Vicius), who are infiltrating a cult in order to film a documentary expose. Peter, whose mother died when he was a teenager, is all logic and resentment. In theory, he should be the perfect foil to Maggie, the cult leader, who claims to be sent from the year 2054. So why does Peter's first encounter with her leave him so shaken?
Brit Marling plays Maggie, pulling triple-duty as an actor/co-writer/co-producer, as she did in last year's Another Earth. As in that work, Marling plays a character more comfortable living on the fringes of society. But as Maggie, she imbues her outsider with grace and a commanding presence, making vague allusions to the future with a disarmingly casual air that gives resonane to the film's title.
Director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij gives the film enough of a sci-fi feel to never fully dismiss Maggie's futuristic claims. Directing his first feature with a steady but unrelenting pace, there's not much time to question things anyway. Peter and Lorna's entanglement in the cult brings the film, like any good horror movie, to a genuinely unpredictable place.
Unlike another recent work concerning cults, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sound of My Voice isn't concerned with the horrors of indoctrination, only taking its characters so far. By the time this film reaches its seemingly abrupt ending, the look on Peter's face reveals that there's been a bolder observation made than we're used to hearing: that believing in something ― anything ― might be better than nothing at all. (Fox Searchlight)