As a mentally ill™ woman, stories about social otherness have always interested me. The complexities of the brain remain a mystery even to the medical profession, and the portrayal of communicative deviance on screen is always a bit hit-and-miss; such exploration is a minefield of offensive tropes disguised as well-meaning artistic choices. Whether through the simpering weakness of the protagonist, clumsily shoehorned romances suddenly providing a cure, or the assignment of villainous traits to all who cannot – or will not – bow to society’s expectations of them, there are a lot of places to go wrong with portrayals of mental illness on screen.
‘The Sounding’ avoids all of these, and instead provides a profound study on the beauty of our differences.
The true strength of the film is found in the character of Liv (actress/writer/director Catherine Eaton), who lives on a remote island with her grandfather Lionel. She is brilliant in many ways – as a proficient painter, actress, and dancer, her life is filled with artistry. She spends her days laughing amongst friends, and her nights listening to her beloved grandfather read Shakespeare, her sparkling eyes attentive, holding onto every syllable. She is surrounded by the natural beauty of her home, the affection of her community, and the passion she has for her interests. Her life is bustling with emotional prosperity.
And through all this, Liv has never spoken a word.