Michæl Herman’s follow up to “Brassed Off” is a mostly enjoyable but ultimately frustrating experience. While the film is bursting with energy and strong visuals Herman’s marvelously frenetic direction is much more successful than his storytelling. Laura, aka Little Voice, is a pathologically shy young woman spending her life in her room playing her dead father’s records and avoiding her kaleidoscopically extroverted mother, Mari. When Ray Say, Mari’s seedy talent scout of a lover, hears LV’s angelic singing voice he thinks he’s finally found his ticket to the big time. LV, on the other hand, isn’t particularly thrilled about being ripped from her protective dream world, thrust in front of a group of strangers, and ordered to perform.
The screenplay has a strong sense of fun but after establishing its concept and characters it doesn’t know where to take them. Admittedly, it must have been a real challenge to bring cinematic qualities to Jim Cartwright’s play about a girl who never leaves her room. Unfortunately, Herman chooses to do this by moving the focus of the film away from LV and towards Mari and Ray Say. While those two are certainly interesting characters Little Voice isn’t their story, and this change of focus causes LV to fade into the background. By the third act the narrative has disintegrated. The “revelations” at the end aren’t even slightly surprising and feel blunt and contrived, as does LV’s “love at first sight” style relationship with quiet pigeon fancier Bill, played earnestly by Ewan McGregor. Jane Horrocks, as LV, does a fantastic job with her underwritten role. She sings all her own songs and her imitations of Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland are spot on. Brenda Blethyn is wonderfully over the top as Mari while Michæl Caine brings an added layer of empathy to floundering, opportunistic Ray Say.