Nov 13, 2023
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
Speech is something that we consider fundamental to everyday life. Indeed, it is fundamental to everyday life and is used in practically every facet of our days - from work, to going to the shops, to hanging out with friends. Although technologies - i.e. laptops, self-checkout machines, and social media messaging services - have made it easier to live in a world without speech, it is nonetheless critical, and will forever be critical, to human existence. It is, as demonstrated by ‘Planet of the Apes’, what separates humans from other animals that we consider inferior. However, for some people speech comes with greater difficulty, as shown by ‘Voice Activated’, which portrays the issues faced by a man with a stammer in an endearing, if not wholly engaging, way.
The man in question is Trent, who is played by Aleks Mikic in a lively performance, a florist who has a stammer and suffers from stuttering. Trent is en route to deliver some lovely flowers that are in the back of his car to a wedding reception when his car comes to a halt and breaks down. Having already encountered issues with his stammer on the phone to a client, who believes that he’s breaking up and suffering from a poor line whilst he is stuttering, Trent’s issues are amplified when an exploitative woman at the car hire, who takes advantage of his stutter by jumping in and pressuring him into agreeing to the ‘platinum option’, gives him a voice activated car.
Already running behind schedule to deliver the flowers for the wedding, Trent must make do, though the car comes with a number of issues. The car, and its gps car assistant ‘aviv’ immediately wants him to speak, not listening to his order of ‘stop’, and proceeding to ask for simple voice commands of where to go. Unable to understand Trent’s stammer, the car directs him on a twelve day trip to Portugal - a long way away from his native New Zealand. This causes Trent’s anger to go, further amplified by the incessant playing of an audiobook on the first five hundred years of the Nordic aristocracy voiced by a famous Kiwi actor. Trent’s anger, rather predictably, brings out his voice, and in his rage he remarkably does not stutter, opening a new avenue of possibilities for the young man.
Written and directed adeptly by Steve Anthopoulos, ‘Voice Activated’ saunters along at a nice pace, never truly wowing or creating moments of wonder, but always creating a positive impression. Though Anthopoulos’ writing is largely predictable - and you have to suspend your belief to think that Trent has only now realised that when angry he does not stutter - it is nonetheless potent in outlining the difficulties created by living with a stammer. Nevertheless, this is made all the more believable and interesting by the impressive lead performance of Aleks Mikic, who is at first subtle as Trent, but then explodes into life in the final act, delivering solid performances of both sorts.
Therefore, whilst at times ‘Voice Activated’ is predictable and very by the books, it is nonetheless a heartfelt film with an excellent lead performance that helps understand the struggles of life with a stammer.