Thesis: Can Jerry break from his inner demons?
Inciting Incident: Jerry hallucinates his love for Fiona.
Strangers coming to town makes it infinitely easier to find the inciting incident. However, it’s not the first time Jerry meets Fiona, it’s the second.
The film revolves around Jerry succumbing to his hallucinations. Therefore - the catalyst for the story is when Fiona herself becomes one of them – an imagined love by Jerry.
Threshold: Jerry kills Fiona.
By the end of the film, it becomes clear that Jerry doesn’t really fall into things in the way he believes. He’s stuck in the middle of a conscious battle between what the voices tell him to do, and what he knows to be right. Although the threshold is set up as an accident, by the end of the film it’s shown to be conscious. Bridges are burned, and Jerry begins his story.
Midpoint: Jerry chooses not to kill Lisa after confronting his trauma.
Through Jerry’s flashback we get a strong insight into Jerry as an individual both damaged by his mental state and the role he was forced to play in his mother’s death. He takes Lisa full knowing that he intends to kill her, but he can’t. He’s confronted by his true inner demons and chooses to not act on the murderous advances of the voices he hears.
Some might say the midpoint is when they go on the date. Where things might just go a little better. But the midpoint isn’t just clear skies. It’s when we see Jerry put away the knife that we believe he might end up for the better.
Low point: Jerry kills Lisa.
Lisa enters Jerry’s apartment unannounced and sees the wreck he lives in. The drywall is peels down with dog and cat food rising up in rotten stacks. And – she sees Fiona’s remains. There’s a moment between Jerry and Lisa, in the possibility that –
“We could just go back to the way it was.”
But it doesn’t last. Jerry kills her as she tries to flee, and there goes the hope Jerry has for resisting his inner thoughts.
Climax: Jerry allows himself to die.
Jerry steals his psychiatrist to figure out everything that’s wrong with him. He gets answers, but it’s too little too late. The police raid the bowling alley he lives at, and a fire strikes up.
He hears his dog, Bosco, tell him to sleep in the fire. That there’s nothing left for him. That he’ll just hurt others if he lives. His cat, Mr. Whiskers, demands that he escapes, but Jerry lies down and allows the fire to take him.
It’s not until Bosco gives up on Jerry being a ‘good boy,’ that we lose faith in his ability to get better. Here, the protagonist makes a final decision with everything his is laid out in front of him.
Resolution: Mr. Whiskers and Bosco reconcile.
In a white space, Jerry two pets, both halves of himself, reconcile with themselves, admitting a mutual admiration. It seems in the final moments in the fire that Jerry managed to have sympathy for himself more than the world he’s leaving might have. With that, Bosco and Mr. Whiskers part.
The act structure of The Voices is fairly straightforward. There is an interesting quirk in the narrative push, in which the end of the first act comes by ‘accident,’ as opposed to a definitive decision by the protagonist. Although this idea of passive catalyst falls apart by the end of the film, it’s hard for me to comment.
Jerry’s mental state and past trauma have pressed him into a terrible situation, which the writing tries to reconcile by Jerry’s conscious decision to not take his pills.
Maybe this is just another film where schizophrenia is poked around for a few laughs. Sometimes it comes off that way. But given that the three act structure is so strongly based on conscious decision, there seems to be little in the way of empathy that appeases characters shoved into their way of life.
I’d like to believe an audience can extend that hand further.