• Warning: Spoilers

    This film, written and directed by newcomer Michael Petroni, takes its intriguing and poetic title from the closing lines of T. S. Eliot's `The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (Till human voices wake us, and we drown).

    Dr. Sam Franks (Guy Pearce), a stoic and somewhat unreadable thirty-something professor of psychology, returns to his sleepy home town of Genoa in rural Australia to bury his father. On the train, he encounters a rather odd young woman named Ruby (Helena Bonham Carter), whom he later saves from a suicidal jump into a river. When she awakens with no recollection of who she is, Sam tries to help her recover her lost memory through suggestion and hypnosis, but the viewer soon realizes it is not so much her past he's bringing back as his own.

    `There are two kinds of forgetting: active and passive,' Sam teaches his students at the very beginning of the film. It isn't hard to figure out that our protagonist is a champion in the former category: repression. As he and the ethereal Ruby explore his childhood haunts, audiences are taken from the glum present back to a seemingly endless summer in his early adolescence, and to his sweetheart Silvy, the first love and soulmate he lost. Interestingly, the original Australian version followed a linear narrative, but was re-cut to a present-past flashback pattern for British and American audiences. It is unclear whether this was meant to interweave the tragic events of Sam's childhood more closely with the man he has become, or simply to feature the big-name actors at an earlier point in the movie. We do work out fairly soon that it is not Sam's father he has truly come home to bury; it is his memories and his ghosts that need to be laid to rest. It is also no great feat to figure out Ruby's true identity.

    Though this film features two accomplished and undeniably talented actors in the present-day layer of the film, what really holds it up is the brilliant performance delivered by their younger counterparts, relative unknowns Lindley Joyner and Brooke Harman. The friendship between the two characters, ranging from platonic intimacy to awkward, tremulous romance, is conveyed through as little as a shy sideward glance or a small shrug of the shoulder. The innocence with which these two carefully explore first love is somehow refreshing in its naïve wholesomeness.

    For the average moviegoer, the seemingly total absence of a plot curve and character development will make sitting through this one somewhat tedious to downright torture. This long-winded, albeit visually stunning oeuvre overburdens itself with pseudo-psychoanalysis and symbolism. If you watch this waiting for something to finally happen, you will definitely end up disappointed. Viewers be warned: this is not plot-driven movie. The pseudo-dramatic revelation is too weak to satisfy the habituated movie-goer. Petroni leaves viewers expecting a proper denouement, but fails to deliver.

    Though conveying poetry through film is a noble ambition, on the whole this film fails to do so by pretending to be more than it is, and maybe this is one heavy-handed tale that should not have been woken in the first place. However, this rambling narrative is still worth seeing, as long as it is not considered an in-depth study on loss and repression. If you can simply sit back and relax, and let the wonderful cinematography plunge you in to sun-washed, bitter-sweet memories, you will be able to enjoy this work for the flimsy, sweet-smelling haze of a film it is.