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Little Voice is a 1998 British drama film with music written and directed by Mark Herman. The screenplay is based on the play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartwright.


Set primarily in a working-class home in Scarboroughmarker where the fuses constantly blow and what little food there is in the refrigerator has turned rancid, the film narrates the story of reclusive, shy, agoraphobic young Laura Hoff, commonly known as Little Voice or LV, who seems to display many of the symptoms of selective mutism, a rare anxiety disorder similar to social phobia. Little Voice was given her nickname because of her shy retiring manner. She spends her time obsessively listening to her deceased father's extensive array of vintage recordings by such all-time singing greats as Edith Piaf, Judy Garland, and Shirley Bassey. Impersonating their performances is an escape and her only source of unalloyed joy. Mari is a brazen woman who seduces many men soon discarding them when her lust fades. Her hardest endeavours to find another man notwithstanding, Mari keeps failing to achieve this goal upon which she has set her heart.

A hint that Little Voice might be able to have a social life beyond her mother occurs when the family telephone has to be repaired, and meek assistant telephone installer Billy (Ewan McGregor) shows interest in her, even returning to the house to deliver information pamphlets. Her life of solitude is turned upside down when Ray Say (Michael Caine), a manager of third-rate acts, becomes romantically involved with her mother. He hears LV's voice drifting down from her bedroom, he recognises her talent and determines to make her the star she does not long to be. Mari, rejects the possibility her Little Voice is musically talented. She finds the music coming from LV's room annoying, and never misses an occasion to berate her daughter quite caustically. Despite Mari's disheartening reprimands, Ray Say prods his manager Mr. Boo (Jim Broadbent) into showcasing LV at his seedy nightclub, where the girl, overcoming her fear by imagining her father is sitting in the audience, presents a succession of show-stopping numbers which have the crowd clamouring for more. For example, LV's voice is suffused with eroticism as she croons the prurient ballads which had been sung by Marilyn Monroe in days of yore while performing on stage. She also mimics the sonorous dulcet tones of Shirley Bassey and sings sundry other pieces of music with consummate skill.

The first show which Little Voice gives seems to be the auspicious start of an ascent within the music business. Relishing the prospect of his career being given fresh impetus, Ray Say tries to encourage LV with empty promises.

Complications ensue when Little Voice retreats into her private world and refuses to participate in a heavily-hyped second appearance attended by a top London press agent. Ray Say's hopes are extinguished when he realises that his attempts to make LV feel more comfortable about the situation have failed and that success has once again eluded him. Mari's scornful attitude towards Little Voice has not changed, but at least she now recognises her daughter's unique talent. She goads LV into even further performances, but still does not realize the effect she has on Little Voice's behaviour. In the aftermath of Little Voice failing to perform, the family house catches fire, and the conflagration destroys the record collection. Mari wrongly accuses LV of setting the house ablaze, and the two have a big argument. For the first time Little Voice gets angry and argues back blaming Mari for driving her father to an early death by her hedonistic lifestyle and insatiable philandering. This row is a turning point in the story: Little Voice, "Laura" leaves her mother for good.

Mari is abandoned by all of her friends and family; Ray Say has turned on her, and is himself facing angry debt-collectors. Little Voice's soulmate, Billy, who is also a pigeon fancier, ultimately saves her both literally and figuratively.


The film was filmed on location in the seaside town of Scarboroughmarker in North Yorkshire.



The following songs are performed by Horrocks:

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 85% based on 34 reviews.

In her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin said, "Horrocks's phenomenal mimicry of musical grande dames from Marlene Dietrich to Marilyn Monroe, lavishing special loving care on Judy Garland, makes a splendid centerpiece for the otherwise more ordinary film built around it."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt the story was "amusing but uneven" and the film "seems to have all the pieces in place for another one of those whimsical, comic British slices of life. But the movie doesn't quite deliver the way we think it will. One problem is that the Michael Caine character, sympathetic and funny in the opening and middle scenes, turns mean at the end for no good reason. Another is that the romance, and a manufactured crisis, distract from the true climax of the movie. That would be Jane Horrocks' vocal performance . . . she is amazing. Absolutely fabulous."

In Variety, Derek Elley called it "a small picture with a big heart" and added, "The film has almost everything going for it, with the exceptions of a somewhat lopsided structure in which the climax comes two-thirds of the way through and a romantic subplot that plays like an afterthought. Nevertheless, smooth direction by Mark Herman and juicy performances by a host of Brit character actors . . . ensure an entertaining ride . . . Horrocks, whose combo of gamin physique and big vocal talent make the title role seem unthinkable for any other actress, is a revelation, handling moments of solo emotion and onstage strutting with equal, moving panache."

Awards and nominations


External links

  • . November 25, 1998. Error:"This video is private."

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