'Voice Over' (La Voz en Off): Toronto Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A well cast but thin family portrait

A father's secrets come out after decades of marriage

"Tell, don't show," is the rule in Cristian Jimenez's Voice Over, a Chilean look at familial reshuffling that, while not relying on the eponymous storytelling crutch to lay out the suspicions that arise after the unexpected end of a long marriage, is certainly happy to spell out in dialogue what might with a little creativity have been dramatized. A convincing sense of family and an interesting cast only goes so far in this inert drama, which is well acted but sleight where it hopes to be deep. Prospects beyond Spanish-speaking territories are slim.

Ingrid Isenseeplays Sofia, who in opening scenes is explaining to her dad (Cristian Campos) "for the 1,000th time" why she divorced the father of her two young children. It was just like food left out to spoil, you know? It had to end, no matter the promises we made. Within days, Dad is parroting her lines back to her, explaining his sudden decision to leave her mother.

Once this split is final, Sofia and sister Ana (Maria Siebald) begin to hear rumors that their father has long been known as a "player," and has even had to leave jobs due to sexual harassment complaints. Can it be true?

Unfortunately, Jimenez and co-writer Daniel Castro explore the movie's central question solely through dialogue scenes that cover the same ground over and over. While the film gives hints of wanting to have some fun with its characters (mocking, for instance, Sofia's claims that she's giving up technology), it ignores the opportunity to send her off on a real investigation, perhaps spying on ambiguous scenes and getting a chance to face up to her own marital failures.

Instead it gives us a well-drawn multigenerational family (four generations, including some in-laws, mingle together nicely) whose daily life, while not wholly uneventful, is a bit dull. Nothing in the film is nearly as challenging as the first scene, which without warning drops us into a close-up of childbirth, complete with fingers and forceps digging in after the infant. At least two viewers walked out promptly, not to return; in this one instance, perhaps, the film should have talked more and shown a little less.

Production companies: Jirafa Films, Rouge International, Films 1976

Cast: Ingrid Isensee, Maria Siebald, Paulina Garcia, Niels Schneider, Cristian Campos

Director: Cristian Jimenez

Screenwriters: Cristian Jimenez, Daniel Castro

Producers: Cristian Jimenez, Nadia Turincev, Julie Gayet, Nicolas Comeau

Executive producers: Augusto Matte

Director of photography: Inti Briones

Production designer: Olivier Laberge

Costume designer:

Editor: Soledad Salfate

Music: Adam Waito

No rating, 99 minutes