LITTLE VOICE is a compelling, touching story of a mute woman who can only speak through the imitated voices of others. Based on the West End play that was commissioned to showcase the inimitable imitative talents of Jane Horrocks, the film is all the more remarkable in that the lead character actually is singing what do amount to wonderful portrayals of famous chanteuses, from Marilyn Monroe to Shirley Bassey.
The underlying theme of the film is communication, from ‘telephone Bill’ and his carrier pigeons (played in an impressively understated way by Ewan ‘Obi-Wan’ McGreggor) to Brenda Blethyn’s breathy performance as the loquacious mother constantly yapping without saying anything at all. The film has enough dark and tragic elements to keep it compelling, while the celebration of Horrock’s talents are showcased with appropriate flair. Michael Caine makes a surprisingly good turn as the sleazy Ray Say, promoter of the stars who finds his world collapsing, caught in a corner of financial ruin only to take it out on those close to him.
With the success of FULL MONTY showing that slightly dark British comedies can do well in the U.S., I’d predict success for LITTLE VOICE. It is a complicated film, with many themes and ideas running through it. Most importantly and impressively, the film does not give into easy dramatic conventions, and tells its story to generate sufficient pathos without resorting to providing forced catharses. The story, in other words, is told with dramatic integrity, sometimes to the detriment of a possible ‘feel good’ moment.
Much better then his early work with McGreggor, BRASSED OFF, Herman’s direction has infused this film with enough charisma and intelligence that it should be appreciated by a large number of people.