VOICE FROM THE STONE (2017)
Directed by Eric D. Howell
Nanny nurse Verena accepts a job in Tuscany to look after young boy Jakob who’s not spoken since the death of his sick mother. Upon her arrival at the home, she witnesses the relationship between the boy and his father who too is grieving for his lost love. When the boy exhibits aggressive behaviour and is obsessed with voices coming from the villa’s stone walls, Verena fears she isn’t up to the task and that Jakob’s problems are medical rather than emotional but something draws her to continue her work… could there really be a voice from the stone?
Set in 1950’s, VOICE FROM THE STONE is a beautifully shot suspenseful drama that evokes the atmospheric vibes of British ghost films of years gone by. It even reminds me of Spanish-American effort The Others, one of my all-time favourite ghost movies. However, despite its chilling, slowburner of a story, I was surprised to discover that this isn’t a ghost story at all but instead a story about overcoming grief, especially through the eyes of a child who has lost the warm comfort of his mother and is left in the world without her loving support. Whilst his father is there and cares deeply about his son, his stern attitude and role he plays as a father can by no means replace what he has lost and thus a gap is left in his heart. With his mother advising the young lad on her deathbed that another woman will come and love him like she does, you might think that all will be well when Verena arrives. Unfortunately, Verena is one of many nurses who’ve come and gone, none of which have been able to give him the emotional care and love he craves and so desires. Is Verena up to the job to play surrogate mother?
Game of Thrones and Terminator Genisys star Emilia Clarke stars as young woman Verena, an orphan herself who has never really had a family of her own. Working as a nurse, she has lived with many families and helped many children with their troubles. When they recover, Verena doesn’t stick around and moves on to her next job much to the upset of the children she nurses as we see from the opening scene. All that is left of their relationship is a letter of well wishes, one that is added to a growing stack that she keeps with her as her time with the family becomes a distant memory. Her new job looking after Jakob is no different – care for the child and make him understand his problem to cure him of his refusal to speak. However, Verena doesn’t anticipate the boy may have more going on than meets the eye and she’s consumed by the will to help him.
VOICE FROM THE STONE is a captivating film thanks to not only the stunning locations, complimented by the wonderful cinematography, but also the stellar performances from all involved. Emilia Clarke, as always, is absolutely faultless whilst Marton Csokas simmers as the blunt but caring father. Edward Dring puts in a hell of a performance considering as he doesn’t speak for 99% of the film as young boy Jakob though you manage to feel the emotional chemistry play out between Jakob and Verena, and Jakob and his father. Even the supporting cast of Caterina Murino, Remo Girone and Lisa Gastoni put in a solid appearance that is hard to ignore. However, despite the quaint beauty and powerful imagery, the film’s plot never really develops as you’d like it to. As previously mentioned, I was expecting something akin to The Others and whilst it would’ve played out well if treated more like a haunted house/ghost movie, it instead decides to go down a more traditional route albeit with some dreamlike states. The result is a lacklustre ending that doesn’t give viewers, nor the film, what is rightly deserved and feels as though it’s short-changing the audience after such a brilliant development of the storyline and relationship between the family and Verena.
Regardless of the plot finale flaws, the film offers plenty to enjoy particuarly if you’re an avid fan of slow-burn atmospheric cinema. A charming story with a captivating heart, VOICE FROM THE STONE is still well worth a watch.