The Sounding starts off like a romantic drama. Olivia Williams (Catherine Eaton) has been raised on an island with her grandfather Lionel (Harris Yulin). She does not speak even though it seems she can. When Lionel learns he is dying, he asks the son of his best friend Michael (Teddy Sears) to watch over her after his passing. He is insistent that Michael not place her in psychiatric care.
What happens next is obvious. The two will get to know each other, Michael will literally help Liv find her voice, and the two will fall in love. Someone will try to have her committed, but Michael will risk everything to make sure that never happens. Except The Sounding does not go in that direction. Instead, a mystery develops that becomes more about independence.
Eaton (who also directed) is mesmerizing in the lead role. She manages to go beyond the curiosity of wanting to know why she does not speak. There is a genuine interest for Liv. Once Liv does begin to talk, it is only in appropriate Shakespeare quotes. Eaton carries Liv with a grace and humor that pulls the audience in. Her performance is so powerful she overshadows anyone she shares the screen with.
The character of Liv is a joy to watch. Using only the words of Shakespeare may seem limiting, but The Sounding does not just stick to The Bard’s most quotable quotes. The script uses the full range of Shakespeare’s works to make for uniquely captivating moments. The way Liv twists the original meanings to her situation is charming and fascinating.
The Sounding makes some narrative missteps. This is especially clear with Michael’s character. He insists on having Liv committed, then questions the competency of the doctors immediately. There is a throwaway line explaining his actions, but it does not make his actions any less callous. He is also written as a highly intelligent man who gives up prestigious positions on a whim. It is as if the movie wants to make a rebel out of its most conformist character.
There have been many adaptations from the works of William Shakespeare. The Sounding (literally) uses his words differently. Catherine Eaton’s powerful performance stands out and the premise is an interesting one. The story is a touching one that even those unfamiliar with Shakespeare will enjoy. The movie is a flawed, but entertaining watch.
The Sounding will be available on streaming platforms October 20.
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