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Till human voices wake us

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Psychologist Sam Franks (Guy Pearce) returns to his home town in Victoria, Australia, and encounters the ghost of a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) he once knew.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Till human voices wake us image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film Australia drama mystery thriller ghost supernatural small-town country

Persons of interest

  • Lindley Joyner .... Young Sam
  • Guy Pearce .... Sam Franks
  • Brooke Harman .... Silvy Lewis
  • Helena Bonham Carter .... Ruby
  • Frank Gallacher .... Maurie Lewis
  • Margot Knight .... Dorothy Lewis
  • Peter Curtin .... Doctor David Franks
  • Michael Petroni .... Screenwriter
  • Michael Petroni .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • Till human voices wake us official movie site
  • Awards and film festivals:
    • Australian Fim Institute (AFI) 1996: Screenplay of the year
    • Film Critics Circle of Australia 2002: Nominated: Best screenplay (original)
    • WGA/Scenario magazine: Best new screenplay
  • Studios and distributors:

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Till human voices wake us consists of two stories, either of which exists as a complete entity without the other.

The first story is a tender romance between two outsiders in a small Australian country town. One (Sam Franks) is an outsider because he's the son of the town's doctor and because he has inherited his father's intelligence and attends boarding school in the city. The other (Silvy Lewis) is an outsider because she's a girl with a brain and because she has to wear leg braces. (Feminists will note that the male travels on phallic trains and is fee to roam the countryside while the female is pretty much stuck at home, given freedom only by the attentions of the male.) Their blossoming sexuality brings them closer and closer together until the inevitable happens...

The second story is a memory mystery between two outsiders in a small Australian country town. One (Sam Franks) is an outsider because he left the town and lives in the big city. The other (Ruby) is an outsider because she has lost her memory. Their repressed sexuality brings them closer and closer together until the inevitable happens...

For some reason, Michael Petroni put these two stories together so that the inevitable happens... the first story tells you what the second story is going to do. Boy meets girl... man meets woman. Boy loves girl... man loves woman. Boy loses girl... man loses woman. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently bad about using parallel structures in a film, but the first story telegraphs the events of the second story so well that there are no surprises at all. Film is about nothing if not bringing something new to the audience.

That said, the power of Lindley Joyner's performance is awesome. His presence on the screen burns through the medium until the emulsion begins to melt. I could've watched a film just about him for the whole 1½ hours, he's that good. Prediction: big things for this boy if he wants them. The energy of Lindley's acting is matched by the intense repression of Guy Pearce's performance: Guy is a really good actor given the right material and his psychotic psychiatrist is a credit to the numb. Brooke Harman acts well but perhaps thinks too much about what she's doing; she doesn't have the wild vibrancy that Lindley or her future self (Helena Bonham Carter) possess. Helena Bonham lets herself out of the box, becoming a feral sprite that taunts and teases straight-laced Sam.

In the end, Till human voices wake us is about coping with death and offers a highly romanticised way to understand your grief. Whether ghosts exist or not, the film still manages to make you feel a bit warm and fuzzy, and as a romantic tragedy it will have you reaching for a tissue. For an Australian ghost flick in a different vein see Willfull.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, DTS
  • Languages: English
  • Picture: Widescreen
  • Special features:
    • Commentary
    • Feature: Australian and USA versions
    • Trailer

Security censorship classification

M (Adult themes)

Surveillance time

90 minutes (1:30 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 12 September 2002 - New South Wales, Victoria
DVD retail: 20 August 2003

Cinema surveillance images

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