This odd but sometimes captivating bit of Gothic psychological drama with a hint of a ghost story sprinkled in for added flavor is sneaking out into the world this week courtesy of director (and former stunt coordinator) Eric D. Howell (From Heaven to Hell). Based on the Italian novel by Silvio Raffo (and adapted by Andrew Shaw), Voice from the Stone is the story of Verena (Emilia Clarke, of “Game of Thrones” and Me Before You), a young British woman living in Italy, circa the 1950s, where she seems to specialize in being a private nurse for the sick children of rich families. But the curse of her job is that once the child is better, the families dismiss her, wanting no memory of the terrible sickness (be it physical ailment or mental dismay).
Verena is summoned to Tuscany to care for young Jakob (Edward Dring), who hasn’t spoken a word since his mother, a famous classical piano player (Caterina Murino) died after a terrible illness. His father, Klaus (Marton Csokas), a sculptor, is also distraught to the point where he doesn’t believe he can take care of Jakob by himself. After Verena moves he, she begins to notice that Jakob isn’t just silent; he’s also behaving strangely, often pushing his ear to the walls of the house, where it seems he can hear his dead mother’s voice speaking to him from the stones taken from the nearby family-owned but long closed quarry, one of Jakob’s favorite spots.
Without many sane specimens in the house, Verena befriends an elderly woman named Lilia (the great Lisa Gastoni), but even that friendship is wrought with complications. Voice from the Stone is dripping with creepy atmosphere and eerie locations that seem custom made for a horror film made 50 years ago. Cinematographer Peter Simonite deserves points for shooting the home, in particular, like it would be the kind of place where a ghost might live in the walls. There’s also a family crypt nearby that is downright terrifying.
The problem is that the movie feels like third-rate Jane Eyre, as it allows the low rumbles of romance between Verena and Klaus take over the far more interesting story of what is going on with Jakob and whether a dead woman is speaking to him and perhaps others in the house. Voice from the Stone is frequently frustrating because it has so much going for it that it doesn’t capitalize upon. And while I certainly applaud the idea of these two lonely people finding something comforting in each other, the film’s strange and nebulous ending blurs the ultimate meaning of the entire work and even has us questioning the identity of certain characters. It’s a close call, and ultimately Clarke’s thoughtful performance makes this an easy watch, even if the plot is often tiresome.