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‘The Human Voice’ is a patient yet angry meditation on love | NYFF 2020

‘The Human Voice’ is a patient yet angry meditation on love | NYFF 2020

‘The Human Voice’ is a patient yet angry meditation on love | NYFF 2020
September 23
17:28 2020

“It’s very inconvenient not being able to be funny with the one person you’d most like to be funny with.”

Not too much happens in the way of plot in Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s English-language debut, “The Human Voice.” We witness Tilda Swinton’s character meandering around with her dog while mourning the loss of her husband. But he’s not dead, he’s only left her, and it’s only when he finally calls her after three agonizing days that Swinton’s character finally gets to express her deep sorrow, until it turns into an expression of ferocious anger. Then, as the film comes to a close in a fiery finale, she finally receives her catharsis.

Swinton is one of our finest working actors today and she utterly shines here in a film that rests entirely on her shoulders. I didn’t need anything more to tell me how amazing she is, but this is basically a one-woman show and she’s utterly captivating.  Also, she dons a set of AirPods in the film and it’s something I never thought I needed to see but I’m so glad that I have.

Almodóvar employs the use of wide angle shots full of lingering empty space to signify the loneliness Swinton’s character feels throughout the film, until the end, where he scales back the wide angle and instead puts Swinton front-and-center in a more condensed shot after she finally understands and accepts her situation.

All of this is wonderfully evident of director Almodóvar’s constant exploration on the themes of love and time and how both can painfully go hand-in-hand quite often. Despite the broad implications these themes can have, the film doesn’t go as much in depth on how they affect our main character as I would have liked to see simply because the film is only 30 minutes. If anything, the film needed a feature-length runtime to fully explore the themes and everything else that Almodóvar has introduced here. These might be simple shortcomings within the film, but sometimes more is indeed better.

Grade: 3.75/5

This film was screened virtually as part of the 58th annual New York Film Festival by the reviewer.

Featured image: Courtesy El Deseo

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Spencer Kain

Spencer Kain

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