Little Voice (film)

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Little Voice
Little Voice.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byMark Herman
Written byMark Herman
Based onThe Rise and Fall of Little Voice
by Jim Cartwright
Produced byElizabeth Karlsen
CinematographyAndy Collins
Edited byMichael Ellis
Music byJohn Altman
Scala Productions
Distributed byMiramax International
Buena Vista International
Release date
  • 4 December 1998 (1998-12-04)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$4.6 million[1]

Little Voice is a 1998 British musical film written and directed by Mark Herman and made in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The film starred Jane Horrocks, Michael Caine, Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent and Ewan McGregor.

The screenplay is based on Jim Cartwright's 1992 play The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.


Laura Hoff, an only child, is a reclusive young woman who lives with her mother, Mari, in a working-class home in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. She is known as LV (short for Little Voice) because of her soft, shy, and childlike speaking voice. She flees reality, hiding away in her bedroom, listening to records and impersonating the voices of American and British artists such as Marilyn Monroe, Gracie Fields, Judy Garland, and Shirley Bassey; her love of songs is her only source of strength since her beloved father's death. Her mother, a promiscuous woman with countless affairs, dumps a man when her passion wanes.

Billy, a telephone engineer who installs their new telephone, approaches LV on the pretense of giving her information pamphlets. Things improve when Mari is seeing Ray Say, who manages third-rate acts; he hears the girl sing, spots her gift, and vows to make her a star, while Mari, who dislikes singing, still doubts her. Ray arranges for LV to sing at a club owned by Mr. Boo. But her performance is a failure as she is overcome by stage fright and only sings a few lines. Ray sees that LV needs encouragement on stage and works with Mr. Boo to organize a big band, lights, and a new dress to give her confidence.

Ray gives her a pep talk, persuading her to perform by portraying her act as a tribute to her father. LV agrees to sing again, but only as a one-off. LV envisions her father sitting in the club as she performs; she brings the house down and is a storming success. Ray thinks she is his ticket to the big time and arranges for a London agent to come and see LV perform the following night. As Ray, Mari and Mr. Boo toast their future success, LV murmurs that she agreed to sing only one time and slumps to the floor.

The following night LV passively remains in her bed while the selfish natures of Ray and Mari are very much revealed: Ray's futile attempts to goad LV are dashed, and Mari still scorns and prods her. At the cabaret club, the London agent finally loses patience after several third-rate acts fill the time in LV's absence and leave. Ray storms into the club and sings "It's Over" on stage, as his career, disappears before everyone's eyes.

Meanwhile, the faulty wiring at LV's home finally starts a fire, trapping LV in her upper room where she is rescued by Billy. In a final showdown with her mother, after being wrongly accused by her mother of arson, LV responds by screaming in her mother's face. Blaming her for her father's death and blaming her own meek nature on Mari's domineering attitude, she walks away saying her name isn't Little Voice, it's Laura.

Mari is left by everyone, Ray is facing his debt collectors, and Laura is saved by her discovery of self-confidence.


In addition, Graham Turner portrays LV’s father, in photos and in her imagination.


Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 80% rating based on 49 reviews with the consensus: "Little Voice brings its award-winning source material to the screen in style, elevated by a commanding lead performance from Jane Horrocks."[2]

Janet Maslin wrote in her New York Times review, "Horrocks's phenomenal mimicry of musical grande dames from Marlene Dietrich to Marilyn Monroe, lavishing special loving care on Judy Garland, makes a splendid centerpiece for the otherwise more ordinary film built around it."[3]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt the story was "amusing but uneven" and that the film "seems to have all the pieces in place for another one of those whimsical, comic British slices of life. But the movie doesn't quite deliver the way we think it will. One problem is that the Michael Caine character, sympathetic and funny in the opening and middle scenes, turns mean at the end for no good reason. Another is that the romance, and a manufactured crisis, distract from the true climax of the movie. That would be Jane Horrocks' vocal performance ... she is amazing. Absolutely fabulous."[4]

In Variety, Derek Elley called the film "a small picture with a big heart", adding, "The film has almost everything going for it, with the exceptions of a somewhat lopsided structure in which the climax comes two-thirds of the way through and a romantic subplot that plays like an afterthought. Nevertheless, smooth direction by Mark Herman and juicy performances by a host of Brit character actors ... ensure an entertaining ride ... Horrocks, whose combo of gamin physique and big vocal talent make the title role seem unthinkable for any other actress, is a revelation, handling moments of solo emotion and onstage strutting with equal, moving panache."[5]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[6] Best Supporting Actress Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[7] Best Actress Jane Horrocks 3rd Place
British Academy Film Awards[8] Outstanding British Film Elizabeth Karlsen and Mark Herman Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Michael Caine Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Jane Horrocks Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Mark Herman Nominated
Best Sound Peter Lindsay, Rodney Glenn, Ray Merrin and Graham Daniel Nominated
British Independent Film Awards[9] Best Actor Michael Caine Nominated
Best Actress Jane Horrocks Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[10] Best Actress Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Michael Caine Nominated
Emden International Film Festival Emden Film Award Mark Herman Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[11] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Michael Caine Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jane Horrocks Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Music – Musical Feature (Foreign & Domestic) Andy Glen Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Awards[12] British Supporting Actor of the Year Michael Caine Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards[13] Best Comedy/Musical Actor Nominated
Best Actress Jane Horrocks Nominated
Best Comedy/Musical Actress Nominated
Best Adapted Song "I Wanna Be Loved by You"
Music by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby
Lyrics by Bert Kalmar
Performed by Jane Horrocks
Best Comedy/Musical Ensemble Nominated
Satellite Awards[14] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Michael Caine Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jane Horrocks Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Mark Herman Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards[15] Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Annette Badland, Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine,
Jane Horrocks, Philip Jackson and Ewan McGregor
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Jane Horrocks Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards[16] Best Actress Jane Horrocks Runner-up

Soundtrack [edit]

The following songs are performed by Horrocks:

The film also features Michael Caine singing "It's Over", as performed by Roy Orbison.


  1. ^ "Little Voice". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  2. ^ Little Voice at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2022-01-04.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (4 December 1998). "'Little Voice': She's Wispy and Painfully Shy, but Onstage Her Mimicry Is Near Perfect". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (4 December 1998). "Little Voice". Chicago Sun-Times.
  5. ^ Elley, Derek (6 October 1998). "Little Voice". Variety.
  6. ^ "The 71st Academy Awards (1999) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  7. ^ "BSFC Winners: 1990s". Boston Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  8. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1999". BAFTA. 1999. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Winners Nominations 1999". BIFA · British Independent Film Awards. 24 October 1999. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  10. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  11. ^ "Little Voice – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  12. ^ "Beauty outshines the Bard". BBC News. 3 March 2000. Retrieved 16 December 2022.
  13. ^ "3rd Annual Film Awards (1998)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  14. ^ "International Press Academy website – 1999 3rd Annual SATELLITE Awards". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008.
  15. ^ "The 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards: Nominees and Recipients". Screen Actors Guild. 1999. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  16. ^ "1998 SEFA Awards". Retrieved 15 May 2021.

External links[edit]