Till Human Voices Wake Us (9)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 Sam Frank (Guy Pearce) is an Australian psychiatrist who meets a gorgeous but mysterious woman, Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter), on a train.  Shortly thereafter she loses her memory and she and Sam proceed to try to find out who she is, which sets them both on a wistful journey of romance, regret, discovery, danger, and tragedy, often told in flashback.  That’s all you should know.  Go see the movie if you want to find out more, but be prepared to cry.

 The teenage lovers Sam (Lindley Joyner in his feature film debut) and Silvy (14 year-old Brooke Harmon, also in her film debut but a veteran of Australian TV) are exceptional.  Harmon, in particular, gives an especially moving performance, but Joyner is no slouch.  Every second Harmon was on the screen I was captivated.  She infuses the film with a haunting, breathtaking beauty, as a young woman experiencing her first love. Joyner’s expression perfectly captures the continuing wonder of a young man undergoing his primordial feelings of love for the burgeoning woman Silvy has become.  For me, they stole the movie. 

 Take my advice and don’t read any reviews of this before you see it.  Many reviewers tell you so much of the story that it tends to diminish the impact you should be able to get from seeing it fresh from the get-go. I’m sending this out a couple of weeks before the release date so that anyone who wants to see this can avoid reading anything about it.  I think it will be even more emotional if you’re watching it without a clue.

 Till Human Voices Wake Us (a line from T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of Alfred J. Prulock) was awarded the AFI’s Screenplay of the Year in 1996.  It was written and directed by Michael Petroni and filmed in the Australian Bush.  The cinematography is an important part of the movie.  Petroni collaborated closely with director of photography Roger Lanser, and says, “There is a kind of pre-Raphaelite feeling to the look of the pictures…I wanted the film to have an other-worldly quality…a beautiful meditative feeling.  I wanted the movie to feel like it was set in the past but also to have a timelessness,” goals he achieved in spades.

 Half of the film takes place at night, and a lot of it in and around a river.  Harmon said, “The river is where things happen.  But shooting scenes in the river was very difficult.  To be in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the coldest, darkest river is something quite mysterious itself.”

 This is a wonderful, emotional, evocative romantic fantasy. There aren’t any laughs in it, but the story is unique, and the acting, the writing, and the directing are so good it kept me spellbound.  Unless I miss my guess, this will be one of the memorable films of 2003.

 February 10, 2003

The End