It is rare when an official synopsis is so alien to what actually happens in a film that it’s almost a lie. Edgar Michael Bravo’s most recent feature offering is billed centering around “a homeless teen [answering] the voice of a child calling out for help,” and that is indeed what happens; but that’s only a fraction of what actually occurs, quickly descending into a swirling vortex of thinly-connected non-sequiturs. Though it is certainly true that A Child’s Voice may have its moments of hardened emotional potency, the end result is a confusing and tedious journey through vague motivations and connections.
Though the majority of the film follows the drug-addled homeless teen Tim (Joey Burke), the film starts off on a cloaked ritualistic ceremony involving the sacrifice of the small boy Jacob (Jonathan Matthew Wilson). While Tim fiends for a mean fix, he starts to hear Jacob’s voice in his head, calling for help, though he initially dismisses this as losing his mind from withdrawal symptoms. Simultaneously Kristy (Angela Mavropoulos) and her boyfriend Matt (Kristian Pierce) struggle under the thumb of Bill (Bailey Brenner), a wrangler in a local human trafficking ring, while searching for her wayward mother and a way out. Their worlds collide when Tim is lead by Jacob’s voice to her, saving her from a nasty (and potentially deadly) confrontation, leading to a descent into the city’s underworld where torture is commonplace, and nothing is what it seems.
“…a junky redeeming himself through the discovery and dismantling of a child slave ring…”
Even though those are the bare bones of the plot, that’s about as much that actually makes any particular sense. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any logical throughlines throughout the narrative, but most of them are loose ends that either are never wrapped up, or contribute little to nothing to the overall experience. For instance, Tim is given context near the beginning through him visiting his drug dealer. While this is nothing particularly special besides determining the severity of Tim’s addiction, the scene commences with that dealer on the phone with his superiors, getting chewed out and obviously on edge. The emphasis placed on this conversation implies that it affects the narrative, though it (and the character) is never revisited.
This becomes the running theme of the film, as the deeper motivations of most characters, but especially the cultist suits and the human traffickers, are never revealed (besides a revenue stream), and what occurs amongst them makes so little logical sense that there isn’t much desire to understand them anyhow. Another example, Kristy spends most of her screen time initially intent on discovering the location of her mother and alludes to her present search having lasted years. However, after the second act kicks in, that point is left by the wayside and is never brought up again, even at the conclusion. This is also true of the relationship that Tim and Kristy form over the course of the story, because (besides their first couple interactions) none of it seems plausible, though their associated performances in said scenes were actually impressive. Also, while Joseph Lopez (who plays the suit Rudolph) does an admirable job, and is probably the strongest of the cast, he is always overshadowed by the very evident fact he looks like Kureo Mado from Tokyo Ghoul. That’s more of a personal point, but damn, was it distracting.
“…an utter mess propelled by deus ex machina moments…”
If the film removed all supernatural elements and simply made this a story of a junky redeeming himself through the discovery and dismantling of a child slave ring, that would have made for a fascinating treatment. However, as it stands, the film is an utter mess propelled by deus ex machina moments with about as much clear conveyance as a late-career Ulli Lommel movie and just about as frustrating (though it possesses far better shot composition and lighting design by cinematographer Laffrey Witbrod). There are several scenes worth the sit, and those are the moments that keep the film alive, however, A Child’s Voice is overinflated, meandering, and unnecessarily obtuse.
A Child’s Voice (2018) Directed by Edgar Michael Bravo. Written by Edgar Michael Bravo. Starring Joey Burke, Jonathan Matthew Wilson, Angela Mavropoulos, Kristian Pierce, Joseph Lopez.
3 out of 10