Written by the talented Brit Marling (Another Earth) and Zal Batmanglij (who also directed), Sound of My Voice stars Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius and Marling. Denham and Vicius play Peter and Lorna, a couple from diverse backgrounds who want to make a documentary exposing a new cult leader who is gathering followers in Los Angeles. Together they manage to pass the initiations and meet Maggie, gaining access to her outrageous claims and participating in her bizarre cleansing and survival rituals. Is she telling the truth, or playing everyone for a fool? Starting out as skeptics, Peter and Lorna are forced to come to terms with the often convincing, charismatic Maggie, as much as with their own relationship.
Like Another Earth, The Sound of My Voice was gripping from start to finish—both in the unfolding mystery revealed in curious and enigmatic tidbits, as well as the believable characters. There's an underlying sense of danger, both from the implication that the cult could be violent, as well what may happen if Peter and Lorna are discovered. Marling again proves she can carry a film, delivering a convincing performance of a magnetic cult leader, who seems convincing even when making the most ridiculous requests and claims. The undercover couple also bring a believable struggle of skepticism versus belief that begins to wear on their relationship.
Though it's a low budget independent film, it doesn't come across that way onscreen. It's a very intimate, character-driven piece so doesn't require a lot of flash. It's a tense and unnerving movie in places, and the music contributes to a very edgy, ominous tone (though there's one musical addition that succeeds in delivering a jolt of humour where one wouldn't expect it).
However, like Another Earth, The Sound of my Voice is equally frustrating. Having grappled with the former film's abrupt ending, I fully expected something similarly enigmatic here and wasn't disappointed. It left me annoyed at first, but the more I thought about the film as a whole, the more I appreciated all the facets of the plot and the ways it was open to interpretation.
I would have loved more revelation and detail thrown in to give me some closure. What I got was enough to grip me throughout the movie and left me to ponder it the rest of the evening. It's likely one of those movies worth a rewatch to see what you missed the first time. While I enjoyed this, as well as Another Earth, I leave with a caution to Marling's next endeavour. It's fine to create an elaborate and interesting plot when one doesn't have to resolve it in any thorough way, so it's debatable when this moves from cleverness into bad writing.