Till Human Voices Wake Us (2002) Poster

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Touches us...
Heavy_Storm17 July 2004
I can't understand exactly why this movie seemed so good to me. It doesn't have a very elaborated plot. But the movie somehow speaks to us.

The way the director tell such a dense story is marvelous. Movies like this leaves us breathing deeply when it ends. You will fall in love for the characters, and pity them.

The movie suffers from a certain lack of complexity. In some minutes you can easily understand what's happening (and, if you read the box summary, then you will get it in no time at all). Still, it's pretty, and adorable.

The musical score is perfect. It draws us into the movie most of the time, and makes our hearth pounds together with the scenes.

Till Human Voices Wake Us is a poem. Simply as that.
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A Beautiful, Beautiful Film
michlam11 September 2002
I am not one to write comments on films on many occasions but I recently saw this movie and it touched me so much that I felt compelled to comment on the film.

"Till Human Voices Wake Us" was beautiful in it's imagery and cinematography, music, acting and writing. It had so many themes which resonated with me on such a deep level. Themes such as look at how we deal with traumas in our life and how they impact on who we become as an adult. Themes about looking at the patterns of behaviour passed down from generation to generation and the huge difficulty in breaking those patterns. Perhaps most important to me was the message that you have to work through your past in a positive way so that you can be free to live your future.

The characters were so beautifully created and the subtlety of the performances was just so moving. It's amazing how a glance or a breath can convey so many words and feelings.

I thoroughly loved this film and its images, themes and lyrical beauty have come back to me again and again since seeing the film. Thank you to all involved for providing me with such a wonderful experience.
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Amazing cinematography and lighting
derekbradford18 November 2004
As one who would like to make films some day, this film blew my mind as an example of superb cinematography and lighting, as well as balanced and subtle acting. Guy Pearce was a little rigid, but i haven't seen him in anything else, so that may have been an affectation of the morose and sombre character he was playing. Bonham Carter would be a dream to work with. She's a master of the art and has a sly dark, sexuality that i can't resist. I haven't yet, but i'll be searching out the cinematography and lighting credits and looking for more of the work of those fine technicians. Good work on a difficult and slow paced psychological drama.
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Much to do about Nothing (But Beautiful)
dansview25 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
OK. It was a beautiful film. But holy jeez. It was so long, slow, and boring. I nearly went crazy.

They depicted a teen summer romance effectively, and also the aura of romance that permeates a teen life in a rural area. That was nice. Interestingly, the boy restrains himself from sexual advances. That's certainly unique for such a story.

But what the hell was wrong with the girls legs? Was it polio? So he takes her braces off and she is somehow treading water while holding his hand. Then she breaks away and drowns and he doesn't even notice or can't find her? What the hell? I guess they needed a talent like Pearce to convey the sadness of our protagonist with facial expressions. But that's pretty much all there was all film long. Sadness conveyed.

Cut it shorter, add a little more background and dialog, and ease up on the schmaltzy music.

Again, this was a visually beautiful film, but excruciating to get through.
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A dream taking over a life
HariElwingShaym1 December 2004
I watched this movie on television while it was running several times one month. The first time I watched it, I got antsy and changed the channel back and forth. I wound up watching it in its entirety several times later on. It is a haunting, intriguing film. Guy Pearce, of course, is extraordinary and so is Helena BC. I see it as a portrayal of a tortured soul who is still in shock from a momentary incident which altered his existence forever. One moment he is an innocent boy and the next he is suppressing a nightmare he cannot come to terms with for half his adult life.

Once he allows himself to live the entire scenario with all the memories and the what if's, when he allows the ghost to be free, the tortured soul is also released. A beautiful, poetic and memorable film.
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The Perfect Elegiac Dream Film
robert-temple-112 March 2008
This is a magnificent triumph of film-making. Why is it that five years later, the writer and director Michael Petroni has not made another feature film? Is there no justice at all in the world? Everything about this film, the mood, the pace, the beautiful and sensitive cinematography, the music, the writing, the direction, and the acting are uniformly superb. No one with any sensitivity could fail to be moved by this dreamlike excursion into memory, remorse, and loss. This film deals with 'atonement' more profoundly than the film of that title which has just been made. Helena Bonham Carter gives one of the most memorable and inspired performances of her entire career in this film. Guy Pearce, who was so wonderful in 'Memento' (2000), here is even better. The teenaged boy and girl are played by Lindley Joyner and Brooke Harmon respectively, and they are spellbinding and delightfully refreshing and charming. (The boy has never made a film since, and one wonders why.) The boy's father, a man paralyzed in his emotions, is played with total conviction by Peter Curtin. His silence is eloquent, and so is Guy Pearce's. This film deals with silence, with dreaming, with visions, with memory. It is not in any way a 'supernatural film' in the conventional sense, and anyone hungry for poltergeists and demons should look elsewhere. This film is very sad, because it deals so profoundly with guilt and loss. It touches the deepest reaches of our psyches, it is a true work of art, and has a master's brush strokes on every frame.
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This is a mental/emotional movie - not meant for action-lovers
suzannadavi3 May 2004
I was reading some of the previous reviews and realized that not everyone would get or like this movie - it is not one I would recommend to many friends, but I loved it. Painful, real, acknowledging of life's moments to regret- it made me think of the line from the Big Kahuna when Danny Divito says you have lots to regret, you just don't know it yet (paraphrase) - another great non-action movie. I saw nothing of the paranormal in this movie - I think that is an interpretation by those who do not get it. Beautifully done and tenderly told, I heartily recommend this movie to a small handful of special people which included my 15 year old daughter.
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Sweet, sad movie that is surprisingly haunting.
sweetiejay9 October 2004
This movie is an under rated film that blends the past and present. It focuses on what is and what might have been, and what life would be like if we had the chance to correct our mistakes. Dr Sam Franks is a man who returns to his home town to bury his somewhat estranged father. On the way he rescues Ruby, an unknown woman who cannot remember who she is or why she is here. He takes her in, and she makes him remember memories he had tried to forget. We are revealed through painful, and sad flashbacks of terrible memories, what it is he had tried to forget. In the end it seems as though she was brought here, just to make him remember, so he could forgive and move on. A sad film, but beautiful at the same time. A line that would sum this film up would be - "She never was."
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a very memorable film, very highly recommended
Pantdino18 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
If you have just opened this page to decide whether you want to rent this film, I recommend you not read ANYTHING about it. See the film with no preconceptions and discover what it means to you. As each viewer will bring his own life experience and beliefs to it, you may perceive a different story than other viewers. For me, it is one of the most memorable of films.

After you have viewed it, come back to see which reviewers saw the same story you did.


Some reviewers have panned this film for being a lame and predictable ghost story. I don't think that's what it is, possibly because I don't believe in ghosts but do believe in the power of past events in our minds. It occurred to me early on that Ruby may not be real, but as I had read nothing about the story before seeing it I maintained this as a hypothesis rather than as a fact.

As I watched the film I concluded that the protagonist was delusional. The memories jarred by his visit to Genoa, by staying in his boyhood home, were just too painful--the father who was distant to the point of nonexistence, the love he had lost as a teen, the guilt he felt related to Sylvia's death. Most of us can look at past events and see ones we wish had turned out differently, but these events go beyond that. These events he has repressed and they have held him prisoner. Ruby is a creation of his tortured mind, a way to try to reconnect with Sylvia.

And it worked for him. He saves her from drowning in the same river, they talk, she tells him she loved him, they make love; things that would have happened had he not taken her into the water years earlier. Things he needs to have happen, even if only in his mind.

In the closing scenes he is not surprised to see she has disappeared. He accepts that and is ready to begin healing.

Of course, he could also just be dreaming and will soon awaken. But that ending was overused long ago.

A truly beautiful and memorable film.
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Absolutely beautiful.
"Let us go then, you and I,

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

This excerpt from the poem 'The Love Of J. Alfred Prufrock' by Eliot is our theme for a film called Till Human Voices wake us, a film I've owned on DVD for almost two years and only got around to watching last night. I have a whole gigantic stack of films that number in the hundreds which I still have to conquer. Some are dodgy movies and risky looking indie muck that I picked up because they have an actor or actress I really love. Some end up being absolute gems that I wish I got around to far, far sooner. This is one of those. It's such a beautiful story, an atmospheric, airy glance into grief, regret, life after death, guilt and redemption. It stars Guy Pearce as Sam, an emotionally constrained professor of psychology who travels back to his town of origin in eerie, ambient Australia to bury his recently deceased father. The very moment he arrives he is flooded with memories both glad and sad, permeated deep to his core by a past that he perhaps purposefully numbed over with time and tide, revisiting the lost events of a youth painted by wonder and first love, and tainted by aching tragedy. We see in flashbacks his younger self (Lindley Joiner) barely a teenager in the lonely rural outback. He spent his days back then with his beautiful friend Sylvie (Brooke Harmon), and the two fall deeply, sublimely in love in that affectionate way that only two youngsters who are both experiencing it for the first time can profess. Tragedy strikes though, resulting in Sylvie's death and Sam's withdrawal from his life in the that town, and eventual flight from Australia, not to return until over a decade later, much older yet still plagued by the loss. Upon returning, he meets a mysterious girl named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter) who he saves from jumping off a bridge. All she can remember is her name. Nothing else like who she is or what she was doing up there. Sam takes her in and tries to help her figure out who she is, and perhaps unbeknownst to him, who he is these days as well. Together they meander through meadows memories, exploring each other's thoughts, perceptions and feelings, gradually coming to some third act revelations that really shouldn't come as a surprise to any viewer with an ounce of intuition. The surprise comes not in being taken off guard by plot turns, because I certainly wasn't. No, the film never sets out to try and surprise you, and guessing what's going on before any reveal I suspect was part of its plan. What it floored me with, though, is the level of emotion and heights of pure crestfallen sadness that we need to sit through. I say need because this is a film about coming to terms with ones own past, hard parts and all. Sam has bottled up the loss of Sylvie for quite some time, and his character arc lets it all tumble out in some scenes that hit hard. It's never ugly or despairing though, and gracefully makes itself only as sorrowful as it needs to be. Pearce and Carter are painfully good in the leads, quietly devastating work for both. It's Harmon and Joiner who complete the song as young Sylvie and young Sam though, two young actors who are uncommonly good on camera and vastly skilled at imparting the raw, reckless and romantic nature of youth, particularly discovering love for the first time, and subsequently losing it in heartbreak that strikes far too soon, like an early summer storm. This is one I'm imagining not too many people have heard of, and one I might have gone a few more years without seeing if I hadn't randomly decided to watch it last night. I'm glad I did, and you should too.
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This film hit close to home for me
joeestlinbm18 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The beautiful Helena Bonham Carter as usual played her part to perfection.

When I was young a girlfriend of mine drowned while we were swimming, so in a remote way I can relate to this movie.

I of course never met the ghost of the girl that drowned, but I can relate to the feelings of the boy. This movie was rather a fantasy, and I was very impressed with Miss Carters performance. DR Franks seemed to have difficulty in believing she was who she was, So he hypnotized her to find out for sure, and he convinced himself I believe to an extent. The ending was a little disappointing, but it would have been hard to come up with another one I guess, so we'll have to be satisfied with this one. I watched the movie because Helena Bonham Carter was in it. You can watch it because it was a beautiful watchable movie.
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Imaginative remake of Wild Strawberries
anita_baxter7 April 2004
The supernatural seems to be real in this poetic film about a repressed Australian psychiatrist who revisits his boyhood home. Thereafter, the film becomes a long dream sequence as he deals with a terrible trauma from his youth. The beauty of the Australian countryside makes the dream world seem possible.

Ingmar Bergman's film Wild Strawberries has a very similar construction, without the ambiguity. Perhaps a direct influence?

The pace and music are deliberately slow to evoke a sleep-like world, so don't lose patience. Just enjoy the idyllic scenery and the wonderful acting, especially by the teenage actors.
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Poetic, but Simply So
tedg5 November 2006
Regular readers know that I am studying the effects of layered narrative, and the various techniques that filmmakers exploit.

A reader suggested this because it overlaps all sorts of things. Within the film are two overlapping realities. And both are lapped onto a specific, well known poem. And the pace of the thing is slow enough for us to steep in ambiguities. Also it has Helena, which in addition to her other charms she will always carry the honesty of Dove Wings and the layering of Fight Club.

So this is a textbook case of what I study. But the reason I am interested is because it can be used to make films, more precisely the narrative capture in films, more effective. But this is not a very good film. Why? Because like many others, the layered mechanics is all there is. These techniques can build a skeleton that runs, but you need blood.

No blood here. You can see that in the first few moments, or hear it. The score has that sort or wandering piano, one note at a time over mellow violins. Its dreaminess by the numbers.

You'll find the allusion to the poem particularly blunt. It appears in the title, as a book from the past and the present, as well as something discussed.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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What a beautiful, poetic film
LadyBeth101 May 2012
I just came across this film on The Movie Channel this morning. I'm home sick in bed, and there's not much else to do. Wow, am I glad I did. I don't know what other movies this writer/director has made, but believe me, I will look them up. I've only read other user reviews, and if the critics panned it, then I don't care to read theirs. Sometimes films that are not easily categorizable, get lost in the modern film market. Whether it is a ghost story, or a psychological gestalt is left up to the viewer's interpretation. I rarely come on here to post, but this film compelled me to do so. This film brought me to tears, both happy and sad. Like a beautiful poem, it unfolds slowly and heartbreakingly. The writing, direction, acting, cinematography, and score are excellent. I'm so glad I DVR'd it, because I'm watching it again. It does remind one of Bergman and some of Kurosawa's more personal films in it's intimate construction. But this filmmaker stands on his own. It haunts you and is absolutely unforgettable.
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A sad tale of lost love
MattyGibbs9 June 2013
I am a big fan of both Guy Pearce and Australian cinema so I was pleased to chance upon this film recently. Pearce plays a psychologist Dr Sam Franks who is haunted by a tragic past. A chance meeting with a stranger changes his life.

This a slow moving but engrossing story which flits back and forth from Sams childhood to the current day as we get to know what shaped him into a lonely and tortured soul. The film works equally well in both time periods as the pieces are put in place as it builds to an emotional ending.

The acting is excellent from all parties. I'm not Helena Bonham Carters biggest fan but she does a good job in this. Also impressive are the younger actors especially Lindley Joiner as the young Sam.

Till Human Voices Wake Us is a tragic tale of lost love and how this can deeply affect all of us. It won't appeal to everyone but for people who like well written drama this is well worth watching.
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A Beautiful Romantic Tragedy
mmr077 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The reason I wanted to see this movie was because of the lead actors, one of my favourite actresses along with Cate Blanchett and the all time Meryl Streep, and the greatly underrated Guy Pierce whom I think deserved to be recognized in his previous roles as Memento and LA Confidential.

I won't put any spoilers, but all I want to say about this film that it had good actors, especially the young cast of Sam and Sylvie, they really grasped their roles, the cinematography was brilliant, I never saw Australia as through the lens of Micahel Petroni, his story also is well told skillfully through flashbacks and current events in the life of Samuel (Guy Pierce).

I really recommend people to see this movie, it is slow at the beginning but after 20 minutes you'll be haunted until the end of it, it is not boring at all, you're not advised to see this movie if one of your favourite movies is Independence Day:):)

Have a nice time
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Beautiful, flimsy, rambling, tedious
Phoenix_Rising4 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers

This film, written and directed by newcomer Michael Petroni, takes its intriguing and poetic title from the closing lines of T. S. Eliot's `The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (Till human voices wake us, and we drown).

Dr. Sam Franks (Guy Pearce), a stoic and somewhat unreadable thirty-something professor of psychology, returns to his sleepy home town of Genoa in rural Australia to bury his father. On the train, he encounters a rather odd young woman named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter), whom he later saves from a suicidal jump into a river. When she awakens with no recollection of who she is, Sam tries to help her recover her lost memory through suggestion and hypnosis, but the viewer soon realizes it is not so much her past he's bringing back as his own.

`There are two kinds of forgetting: active and passive,' Sam teaches his students at the very beginning of the film. It isn't hard to figure out that our protagonist is a champion in the former category: repression. As he and the ethereal Ruby explore his childhood haunts, audiences are taken from the glum present back to a seemingly endless summer in his early adolescence, and to his sweetheart Silvy, the first love and soulmate he lost. Interestingly, the original Australian version followed a linear narrative, but was re-cut to a present-past flashback pattern for British and American audiences. It is unclear whether this was meant to interweave the tragic events of Sam's childhood more closely with the man he has become, or simply to feature the big-name actors at an earlier point in the movie. We do work out fairly soon that it is not Sam's father he has truly come home to bury; it is his memories and his ghosts that need to be laid to rest. It is also no great feat to figure out Ruby's true identity.

Though this film features two accomplished and undeniably talented actors in the present-day layer of the film, what really holds it up is the brilliant performance delivered by their younger counterparts, relative unknowns Lindley Joyner and Brooke Harman. The friendship between the two characters, ranging from platonic intimacy to awkward, tremulous romance, is conveyed through as little as a shy sideward glance or a small shrug of the shoulder. The innocence with which these two carefully explore first love is somehow refreshing in its naïve wholesomeness.

For the average moviegoer, the seemingly total absence of a plot curve and character development will make sitting through this one somewhat tedious to downright torture. This long-winded, albeit visually stunning oeuvre overburdens itself with pseudo-psychoanalysis and symbolism. If you watch this waiting for something to finally happen, you will definitely end up disappointed. Viewers be warned: this is not plot-driven movie. The pseudo-dramatic revelation is too weak to satisfy the habituated movie-goer. Petroni leaves viewers expecting a proper denouement, but fails to deliver.

Though conveying poetry through film is a noble ambition, on the whole this film fails to do so by pretending to be more than it is, and maybe this is one heavy-handed tale that should not have been woken in the first place. However, this rambling narrative is still worth seeing, as long as it is not considered an in-depth study on loss and repression. If you can simply sit back and relax, and let the wonderful cinematography plunge you in to sun-washed, bitter-sweet memories, you will be able to enjoy this work for the flimsy, sweet-smelling haze of a film it is.
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Boring and Pretentious
reel_emotion26 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Okay, just about everybody here seems to like Till Human Voices Wake Us. Maybe admitting that you didn't like it is admitting that you are stupid, don't know much about poetry, or can't understand artsy fartsy movies. Well, maybe I am just that. Oh yeah, I did get the whole movie was the guy's dream--not that the character of Ruby is the reincarnation of his childhood girlfriend, which is the movie's literal translation.

Guy Pierce is one of my favorite actors--and he is good here. Human Voices starts out promising enough with Pierce as a psychology professor giving a lecture about repressing memories. But Human Voices slides downhill from there. The pace is boring. I had the feeling if some scenes were added or edited, this could've been a good movie.

Pierce's emotionally cold father dies, and he goes back to his hometown to bury him--against his father's wishes to be buried in Melbourne. You never know why Pierce's dad was so distant--and do we really see the effects on Pierce's character because of that detachment? I also wanted to know what happened to his mother, but I didn't hear anything about her.

Pierce flashes back on his childhood and his handicapped girlfriend. She would sit on the sidelines reading T.S. Elliot while he would swim in the river. The two friends become romantic, but the movie is particularly slow getting there. On one tragic night, he helps her into the river holding her, but after awhile, she lets go of his hand, drowning in the murky water. But the adult Pierce saves the drowning Ruby, played by Helena Bonham-Carter, as she jumps off a bridge in a suicide attempt. Ruby has amnesia and seems to be the reincarnation of his childhood girlfriend. But how can that be? It must be a dream as Pierce says that he is like many psychoanalysts and doesn't dream because the subconscious doesn't like to be found out.

Human Voices sounds interesting, but it is not. It is tedious which is sad because it has an interesting concept. One of the few good scenes is the sex scene between Bonham Carter and Pierce because it seems to resolve much of the conflict in the movie. But it was still one of the many sub par movies I sat through that weekend.
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Till Human Voices Bore Us
Roguefilms3 October 2002
What a shame that this movie didn't reach it's potential. It had the promise of a great cast - Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter, plus the new talent of Brooke Harman and Lindley Joyner. I had a shiver as the film opened and I thought 'Hey, maybe I'm about to see what could become a classic Australian film in the beginning of a new age in Australian film-making'. But no, nothing new here. I fail to understand why the Australian funding bodies keep throwing money at crap scripts like this one. It seems if you have "set in a typical Aussie outback town with slow moving deep thinking characters" you'll get funded for sure; irrelevant of whether or not there is a decent story to be told. Though well shot with some beautiful cinematography, I can only put the failure of this film down to the directing.
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You'll need strong coffee
andyslade28 June 2004
Tiring, difficult to follow, arduous, unappealing. OK, so I missed the first few minutes but I think that was quite a good idea. It tries hard to be a somewhat arty presentation, but ends up being a collection of some nice cinematographic moments, spoiled by what I can best describe as unusual and overcooked acting and a laboured script in parts. In short, I'd give it a miss unless you want to bore yourself for an hour or two.

Tiring, difficult to follow, arduous, unappealing. OK, so I missed the first few minutes but I think that was quite a good idea. It tries hard to be a somewhat arty presentation, but ends up being a collection of some nice cinematographic moments, spoiled by what I can best describe as unusual and overcooked acting and a laboured script in parts. In short, I'd give it a miss unless you want to bore yourself for an hour or two.
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Haunting and delightful b/c of it's younger cast
saprater2 August 2003
I rated this movie a 7 out of 10. It would have been lower except for the stunning performances of the actors who played the young Sam and Silvy. The glances, the chemistry (even between people who are so young) was achingly sweet. I felt the seemingly impossible love they felt for each other through their performances.

The only thing to mar the film was the miscasting of Helena Bonham Carter and the sometimes trite method of revealing Ruby's identity. Let me say that Miss Carter was totally up to par ability-wise. Her acting is not in question so much as her overall appearance/aura/presence. She is such a strong actress and I felt that she was unable to capture the frailty of Silvie's character. She didn't have the vulnerability and dreamer's attitude that the role required. Also, she is a striking woman and I thought that her looks were a bit too harsh for this role.

Otherwise, a good film and well worth renting. Guy Pearce put in an adequate performance. I wish there were some special features included on the DVD, but overall it was nicely done.
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Till Human voices wake me when it's over...
Neil Ofsteel26 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was boring, contrived and predictable, did I mention boring? Holy crap, what a waste of the talented cast, all 6 actors.

The story is this:(Spoilers ahead) Mopey psychiatric professor Pearce goes to the hospital to see his dad who dies, right there, he just dies. Okay, whatever. He then finds out that he has to bury his dad in his old home town so he goes there. Meanwhile, we see flashbacks of his life as a early-teen and his Tiny Tim-esque playmate to whom we all KNOW something bad will happen. Obviously this character won't last, she's got leg-braces, she doesn't "fit in" she reads poetry and oh yeah, SHE'S AS BORING AS THE REST OF THE MOVIE. Now listen, I appreciate a good art house bore fest as much as the next guy but come on, WHO CARES?! These characters are all boring tired cliches. The "story" is so very dull and uneventful. The attempted symbolism is misplaced and overused anyway. The plot is entirely circumstantial.

I can't believe I've used this much space talking about this awful movie. But I guess it's relevant, after watching the 100 minute movie, you say, "I can't believe I spent so much of my time watching this movie where nothing happens."

The arthouse version of Patch Adams. blehck.
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What happened here?
beccagoesbananas28 September 2003
all right, so maybe it was because I was on an airplane and wasn't paying that much attention, but did this movie have a plot? It was sooo predictable and it seemed to barely scrape the surface. Also, I have NO idea what happened at the end. I was so lost and it left me with more questions than answers. Don't bother watching it. I wish I hadn't.
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Beautifully boring
George Parker2 August 2003
"Till Human Voices Wake Us" tells two parallel stories at the same time, interleaving scenes. The first is of a man (Pearce) returning to his boyhood home in Australia to bury his father and, with the help of a mysterious woman (Bonham Carter), bittersweet memories of his childhood. The second story shows us the boy and the events which created the memories which haunt the man. Beautifully filmed but tediously told and wholly unsatisfying, this lovely bit of tripe treads the paranormal having left itself nowhere else to go. (C+)
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