Till Human Voices Wake Us

I was appalled to hear that writer-director Michael Petroni was obliged to reedit his Australian feature in order to receive American distribution from Paramount Classics, taking apart the chronological Australian cut so that the story now seesaws awkwardly between two periods. Given the deplorable willingness of so much of the American press to sanction this sort of Miramaxing, routinely trusting distributors over filmmakers, it’s not surprising that so many films wind up twisted pointlessly out of shape. This is a tale of romantic obsession with more than a whiff of Vertigo. It’s about a teenage boy (Lindley Joyner) who returns to his native Victoria from boarding school and falls for a crippled girl (Brooke Harman) who fancies poetry (occasioning the Eliot reference in the title). She drowns; decades later the boy, now a psychology teacher (Guy Pearce) returning from Melbourne to bury his father, saves a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) from drowning and begins to relive his traumatic experience. The story is full of unanswered questions and ultimately succeeds or fails according to the mood it conjures. I was seduced part of the time, thanks largely to Bonham Carter’s sensuality, but the whole is unsatisfying, and it’s tempting to see the imposed recutting as a major source of the problem. 97 min. (JR)

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