Solitude can be an important part of life and help you to develop who you are and your sense of self. But what if you could never truly feel alone? For Dan, an average Joe stumbling through life, this is exactly the situation he finds himself in, as the negative voice in his head follows him everywhere and never seems to give him a break. S/W alum Graham Parkes returns to our site for a third time with The Voice In Your Head, a sharp and witty comedy that surprisingly reveals itself as a much deeper opportunity for introspection.
In The Voice In Your Head, Parkes reunites with actors Mat Wright and Lewis Pullman (who has actually been in all of Parkes’ previous shorts). The trio last worked together on Craig’s Pathetic Freakout, and Parkes tells us that it was the desire to work with the pair of actors again, within what he calls the “comedy of panic” genre, that planted the seed for the film. The dynamic between Wright and Pullman, their ability to deliver insanity while staying grounded and vice-versa, lead him to the concept of having Wright play the voice inside Pullman’s head.
Although the premise is not revolutionary, Parkes makes it shine with an extremely sharp screenplay, which is perfectly brought to life by the outstanding performances of the whole cast. Wright’s character goes to town serving up the most epic zingers. Creative yet so hurtful, the extreme nastiness of his comments often cross into crushing home truths, making you almost feel bad for laughing. Dressed in a costume that fittingly encapsulates the nature of his character, Wright delivers his lines with a perfectly detached, yet spiteful tone and adds an extra comedic layer to his presence with a complete lack of respect for personal space.
“In my mind, they are sort of perfect opposites as actors”
On the flip side, as Wright portrays a character truly enjoying his demeaning duties, Pullman does a great job at capturing just how resigned his character Dan is. Stumbling through his life, in a state of near numbness, his appearance is that of a weary, disheveled man, exhausted from the continuous jabs he takes on a daily basis. “In my mind, they are sort of perfect opposites as actors”, Parkes reveals as we discuss his lead actors. “Mat is a master of playing these ecstatic or insane characters in a totally grounded way, whilst Lewis is a master of playing grounded characters with this sort of heart-breaking clarity”.
With the Wright/Pullman dynamic taking center stage for the first quarter of the film, Parkes’ film takes a quick U-turn, bringing the rest of the cast to come into play, their roles essential in escalating the dark humorous tone of the screenplay. It’s this change in the narrative that really sets The Voice In Your Head apart from the crowded pool of films in the genre.
Yes, it’s a twist! But with it Parkes not only subverts audience expectations, but he introduces a much deeper meaning to his film and structures it quite surprisingly, especially for a comedy short. The aforementioned twist happens quite early in the film, with Parkes playfully introducing a familiar set-up, before pulling the rug from under your feet. We’re then left to observe his characters as they deal with the fallout of the reveal, instead of using the typical comedy structure of escalating the absurdity. This allows Pullman’s character, Dan, to actually grow throughout the film, which is rather rare to witness in the comedy genre.
“I wanted the ending to provoke some introspection from the viewer”
Despite the extremities of the situation, what truly makes The Voice In Your Head special is how surprisingly relatable it is. Everyone can have their own take on the story, and more specifically the end, but the film’s comedic aspect does have the quality of offering a distance to take a look at our own, potentially co-dependent, relationship with our “inner voice”.
“I wanted the ending to provoke some introspection from the viewer”, Parkes explains as we discuss the conclusion to his film, before adding that he “had a lot of friends come to me with different interpretations, and I’ve found myself equally sort of taken with each one”. My personal interpretation of the end was rather positive, empowering, and hopeful, but I could understand how others can see it through a darker, more ironic lens.
The Voice in Your Head was supposed to have its IRL premiere back in March at SXSW and I don’t think I could have imagined a better home for this film. If you can’t get enough of Graham Parkes’ distinct style, you can go check out his two previous shorts featured on Short of the Week, Craig’s Pathetic Freakout, and Where You Are.