Voices From a Locked Room

Rated: R
Stars:   Jeremy Northam, Tushka Bergen

I came upon this 1999 release as I wandered the aisles of my favorite video rental store and because it starred one of my favorite actors – Jeremy Northam – and sounded interesting, I couldn’t resist checking it out. It’s quite good and shows that Northam’s acting prowess is considerable.

It’s London 1930 with a twist on the old Jekyll and Hyde theme. Northam plays acerbic newspaper music critic Philip Heseltine who’s known as ‘The Grim Reaper’ for his rip-snorting put-downs. Philip’s view of critics is that they are like surgeons and in his case, he wields his scalpel with great determination in cutting away the musical debris, such as that of contemporary pianist-composer Peter Warlock, whom he believes to be a thief of other composer’s works.

One night, Philip is sent to review an American torch singer by the name of Lily Buxton and she wins his heart and mind with her talent and freshness. About the same time, the feud between Philip and Warlock escalates and ever so slowly, Lily comes to realize that her lover is frightfully mad and tragedy shall soon visit them all.

Lotta says: What’s more interesting is that both characters, Heseltine and Warlock really existed and Warlock’s bizarre behavior at the time led to much speculation as to his mental capacity. If this film is an off-the-wall answer to that speculation, it’s entirely irrelevant because the story is thoroughly absorbing and Northam carries the film with his exceptional portrayal of the musician and the critic. A great find!

Reviewed 6/21/01