Madness is never easy to convey on screen. Anyone can do the wide-eyed, nerves-on-end psycho stare (Jack Nicholson, The Shining) but that's about as close to real, insidious loss of mental control as Staines is to San Francisco. Even if you meticulously recreate what physically happens as someone slipslides away from sanity, you always risk ending up with laughable, man-in-tin-foil-hat shenanigans straight out of EastEnders' Mad Joe days.
Some Voices leapfrogs all of this by refusing to show someone going mad, opting instead to gaze through the eyes of a man watching helplessly as the world twists out of shape around him. Ray may have little bursts of obsession (the ominous purchase of five colour-coordinated cigarette lighters, for instance) and the occasional odd flash on the fringes of his vision or strange sound murmuring on the edge of audibility, but, by and large, he starts off experiencing life fairly normally.
Then, as Ray stops taking his tablets, the strange staticky images start to dominate his vision, the odd sounds begin to blot out reality and, gradually, the gulf between the world he experiences and the one everyone else lives in widens disastrously. It's a clever and mammothly effective technique, communicating not just the strangeness of what's happening to Ray, but also the sheer terror of it.
Unfortunately, though, it's a brilliant effect in a merely solid film. Our Friends In The North director Simon Cellan Jones may draw intelligent, effective turns from his cast - Daniel Craig and David Morrissey are excellent, while Kelly Macdonald delivers the kind of sweetly sexy performance she's rapidly trade-marking - but the film itself feels small and distant. Perhaps it's the quirky, jerky This Life camerawork or the dim, grainy film stock, but Some Voices never reaches out and grabs the audience, remaining a watch rather than an experience.
Intelligent, well-played and strongly written, Some Voices just lacks that spark which transforms the story from excellent TV into excellent cinema. It's worth watching, but you'll lose nothing by waiting for it to turn up on FilmFour in a few months.