Horror Movies

THE VOICES. Very black and very underrated comedy

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) leads a peaceful, good life. He lives in a cozy studio above an old bowling alley.

Jan Dąbrowski

29 February 2024

THE VOICES. Underrated and veeery black comedy

He works in the small, industrial town of Milton, where he packs bathroom fixtures. He never complains, has a positive attitude, and enjoys engaging in various activities, although he can be shy, especially around women. When he manages to meet his coworker Fiona (Gemma Arterton), Jerry is ecstatic. Unfortunately, shortly after, he accidentally kills her.

After disposing of the body, he keeps the woman’s head in his fridge. But all is not lost – after all, he can always confide in his faithful dog Bosco and Mr. Whiskers, the mean, ginger cat. The animals patiently listen to their owner. They even respond to him, in English no less. This doesn’t surprise the protagonist; he can’t imagine life without his four-legged friends and their opinions. However, not everything is as rosy as the main character’s work overalls. Peace, a cheerful mood, and contact with the dog and cat can disappear – all Jerry has to do is take his medication. The Voices.

The voices Ryan Reynolds Gemma Arterton

“Take them, and you’ll enter a sad and lonely world” – the cat’s warning doesn’t sound very credible to the protagonist. After all, the psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver) admonished him that taking the pills is very important. So, Jerry swallows them because he doesn’t want to object and doesn’t trust the unpleasant Mr. Whiskers. When the drugs start to take effect, the orderly, pastel world turns into a bleak, depressive nightmare. Jerry’s normally tidy and neat apartment turns into a cluttered den full of trash bags, pizza boxes, and animal waste. Bosco and Mr. Whiskers behave strangely, they are apathetic, and worse still – they no longer talk to Jerry. The head of Fiona in the fridge no longer looks so fresh and lively; it’s dirty and starting to rot. All the joy of life, companionship, and order has disappeared, and reality has turned terrifying. And unacceptable to the sensitive, lost protagonist. For him, the pastel, positive world where he can find himself, work, and live, The Voices world, despite the sarcasm from the malicious cat, is more real.

The voices Ryan Reynolds Gemma Arterton

Jerry escapes from his problems into a mental illness that consumes him. When his personality splits into several parts, it’s easier for him to have an internal monologue, which in the movie becomes… external. The cat is a penetrating schemer, the dog not very bright but loyal ally, and Fiona’s head a companion in social matters. Surrounded by them, the protagonist can hold conversations and reach different conclusions, confronting the viewpoints of different aspects of his psyche. This leads, for example, to the conclusion that it wasn’t Mr. Whiskers who told him to kill Fiona, but rather Jerry himself wanted it, and that he is a murderer. Changes in his brain make him perceive talking animals as separate beings, but in reality, the protagonist knows that their voices are his own. And most of the time, it’s the only voice he hears. It’s much easier to talk to different aspects of oneself one by one than to have them all in one’s head at the same time. And when Jerry explains that the therapist assured him that the pills help him, Mr. Whiskers retorts: “The psychiatrist doesn’t care if you’re happy. She wants you to obey.”

The voices Ryan Reynolds

The voices the protagonist hears represent such different views that he can’t make the right decision – all because it can be defined differently. Jerry’s worldview depends on whether he takes his medication or not. He’s in a no-win situation. The therapist insists on taking the pills, but he’s terrified of the world he sees after taking them. Moreover, under their influence, the protagonist recalls his sad childhood filled with his father’s aggression and (hereditary) mother’s schizophrenia. His only friend as a child was a stuffed rabbit-shaped sock. Even then, the protagonist was escaping from depressive realities that didn’t necessarily have to be true for him. Adult Jerry also finds it more convenient to believe in a better, more colorful reality where household inventory speaks, and the heads of dead women don’t decompose but smell like baby shampoo and smile widely.

The voices Gemma Arterton

The director of The Voices, previously Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi – emphasizes the instability of the protagonist by presenting both worlds he lives in. The pastel reality without medication is almost fairy-tale-like. Dreamy Jerry hears gentle music and singing in his head, and colorful butterflies float nearby. Bosco and Mr. Whiskers – although they don’t leave the apartment – don’t leave waste or destroy anything. Smitten with his accounting colleague, Jerry sees almost a dance choreography in the forklifts at work. However, the body of Fiona in the woods the day after the murder still has vivid colors, her white dress devoid of blood stains, the grass around her intensely green and densely dotted with flowers. But when Jerry killed Fiona the previous night, she was covered in blood, her clothes were dirty and torn. However, it’s easy to suppress uncomfortable memories, erase ugly images, and replace them with colorful and fragrant reality. Marjane Satrapi wanted the audience to like Jerry’s world and, by extension, sympathize with him a little.

The protagonist is both a murderer and a victim. He escapes into a subdued reality where there’s no dirt or blood, and everything looks nice.

The voices Ryan Reynolds

And although it seems naive and somewhat childish – just like some of Jerry’s behaviors – it’s hardly surprising. After all, for him, the alternative is a sad, lonely world of regular doses of medication and an unfriendly, repulsive consciousness. Balancing on the edge of sobriety of mind, the protagonist is very ambiguous in judgment. Genetic burden of mental illness, difficult childhood, loneliness, shyness, and uncontrollable sanity – looking at Jerry’s crimes through the prism of his complicated history, it’s not easy to call him unequivocally evil. However, the longer the film lasts, the more Jerry becomes a thorough serial killer, for whom detachment from reality also serves as an excuse and a conscience suppressor. In this way, The Voices are not only an interesting blend of genre conventions (black comedy, crime, drama, and even horror) but also a thoughtful variation on the impact of mental illness on perception.

The voices Ryan Reynolds

Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices skillfully addresses all the issues it raises. There is no straightforwardness here, and every event has a double bottom, which makes it difficult to judge Jerry. Jerry has more voices in his head than he can process, so he divides them into a dog, a cat, and the head of his dead colleague. And as grotesque as it may sound, listening to their conversations with the protagonist, one can feel that despite its light form, this is not a shallow film aimed solely at entertainment.

The director gives the audience insight into the schizophrenic’s mind, and although it’s not the most serious analysis in the history of cinema, it can make you think. The Voices is an unusual mix of genres that turns out to be surprisingly coherent and interesting. Jerry escapes from the real world into a subdued, authorial reality, where he has an influence on its appearance and the laws that govern it. He chooses Bosco and Mr. Whiskers as advisors and friends and creates a small, cozy corner where he feels safe. Considering the alternative, it’s hard to say what a healthy person would do in Jerry’s place.


Jan Dąbrowski

Self-proclaimed Cronenbergologist, blogger, editor, connoisseur of good coffee, and lover of insects.

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