Amazon Prime Festivals Movie Reviews SXSW

SXSW 2020: “Voice in Your Head” Short Film Review

“Voice in Your Head” is one of the short films offered temporarily on Amazon Prime following the cancellation of SXSW 2020. It’s roughly 12 minutes long, and this dark comedy will take you for a ride.

It was written and directed by Graham Parkes, who introduces the film from what is presumably his home, and he thanks his friends, who helped him make it. It stars Lewis Pullman as protagonist Dan and Mat Wright as the negative voice that follows him everywhere. Trian Long Smith plays Julia, a kind coworker and possible crush of Dan’s.

The first words spoken are by the aforementioned negative voice: “You ready for another disappointing day?” As someone who is not only cynical but also has her share of negative thoughts, this short hit close to home. I imagine most people have had some form of this, no matter how temporary. This negative voice follows Dan into the shower to mock his body, into his car to ruin his commute with pessimistic ideas about his family, into the office to harp on the way he walks and his method of eating lunch. It’s highly relatable.

A few minutes into this short, it takes a turn. SPOILER WARNING: The negativity isn’t coming from a voice inside Dan’s head; the man is real, and he’s been following Dan just to berate him this whole time. Of course you have to suspend your disbelief a bit with a surreal plot like this, but it’s not where I expected the short to go at all! It was a pleasantly funny surprise that comes about simply because Julia can no longer take it. The fact that Dan’s coworkers and boss let it go on for so long in the first place is a travesty (one coworker even says, “None of it was really funny or true but…”). Nonetheless, Dan is grateful to Julia for speaking up.

After an awkward post-work conversation with Julia in the parking lot, it seems like things are looking up for Dan. He may have made a friend or romantic connection, and the awful man spewing terrible things at him all day is gone. But it’s not really that easy, is it? “Voice in Your Head” ends on a bittersweet note instead, inviting you to think about why Dan makes the choices he does. Is it comfort? Is it self-sabotage?

This short was thoroughly enjoyable. And the casting was great — not only were the actors talented but they also gave the impression of actual office workers that you might know. It was the epitome of what an independent production should be. Sure, it was pretty threadbare and no-frills, but who needs frills when you have a human story and some perfectly landed jokes? Parkes did a fantastic job on this, and I’m excited to see what he does next.

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