“The film is a tribute to immigrants who have to reinvent themselves, shot with tender care for the three subjects at its heart who remain faceless for almost the entire runtime until they get a moment to show off newfound happiness at the end.”
Having left your identity behind in your old world, but struggling to find one in your new world. The three subjects of My Two Voices, Lina Rodriguez’s third feature-length film, know all about this; they communicate their experiences of moving from Colombia and Mexico to Canada and the difficulty of creating a new place for yourself in an oddly poetic work that deliberately concentrates on their stories and not their appearance. Set to soothing images of flowers, trees and private moments combined with a rich tapestry of sound, Ana, Claudia, and Marinela reflect on the violence and abuse of their past and how they have carved out lives in their adoptive country. Ruminating on the importance of language, which is one of the more straightforward references of the film’s title, My Two Voices explores the complexities of relocating and how these women handle issues like home, family, memory, and discrimination, and how to not forget your heritage. The film is a tribute to immigrants who have to reinvent themselves, shot with tender care for the three subjects at its heart who remain faceless for almost the entire runtime until they get a moment to show off newfound happiness at the end.
The three women tell their respective stories in voice-over, each starting with the native country that they decided to leave when pushed to the brink; stories of drug violence, poverty, and domestic abuse. Because Rodriguez explicitly separates image and story by having us watch images of public and private places that either have no direct relationship to the stories told or are not defining the women explicitly, like showing their faces would do, it forces the viewer to focus on their stories. It is meant to help us contemplate what we hear, but it does turn My Two Voices into something akin to a radio play at times. On the other hand, it heightens the feelings of displacement that seep through in their stories, which creates an odd conversation between sound and image through the disorientation created in the viewer.
The problem with My Two Voices is that while Rodriguez adds contemplative visuals to the women’s voices, she leaves very little time to contemplate, as there are no moments of rest in the narratives. What they tell is a lot to take in, emotionally and intellectually, but the viewer is not given a chance to reflect on it. The stories themselves are brutal at first, uplifting towards the end, but they pack in so many themes and are so lived-in and full of detail that at some point it becomes almost an assault on the audience. While Rodriguez’s approach is to be admired and works to some extent, her deliberate choice to separate the image from the sound makes the film exhausting even at a runtime of just over an hour. A picture says more than a thousand words, but a picture also creates breathing space. Which isn’t to say that My Two Voices is a bad film. The stories of Ana, Claudia, and Marinela represent the voices of so many immigrant women and mothers, and the film has a poetic quality to it that makes it stand out as a documentary. But the chosen structure sadly hinders My Two Voices from coming to full bloom.