Till Human Voices Wake Us

“Till Human Voices Wake Us” is a line from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock,” a poem I had to write a term paper on in high school and which I still remember very well. It is more interesting than this movie, which is as ponderous and plodding as a thousand bad poems.

It’s a lovely film to look at, and for a good while has a sweetly melancholic, almost elegiac, air about it. Dr. Sam Franks (Guy Pearce), a noted psychologist, must travel home to the Australian town of his childhood to bury his father. He meets a woman named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter) on the train, and subsequently runs into her again after she jumps or falls from a bridge and he saves her life. Only now, she has amnesia.

Intercut with all this is the story of Sam as a boy (Lindley Joyner), around 13 years old and best of friends with Silvy (Brooke Harman), a sweet girl his age with braces on her legs. They spend all hours together; his father, a dentist, is oddly preoccupied, often with nothing, and Silvy’s parents treat him like one of the family. It’s summertime, and life is full of bike rides and swims in the pond (though Silvy, alas, must watch from the dock).

Eventually, we figure out how these stories are related, though there’s really not much to figure. I don’t know whether the writer/director, Michael Petroni (making his directorial debut), expected it to be a surprise or not. If he didn’t, one has to wonder what, exactly, he DID want us to get from it all. For the longest time, we have no idea where the young-people story is going; it seems to be nothing more than a series of slice-of-life vignettes.

Truth be told, that is the problem overall. The film doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and when it’s done, you realize it didn’t, in fact, go anywhere.

C- (1 hr., 35 min.; R, brief partial nudity and one scene of sexuality, some mild profanity.)