What do we make of someone who refuses to live conventionally? Is there something wrong with them that needs to be fixed? Or should we find a way into their world to see things in new ways? The Sounding (the first feature film by Catherine Eaton) presents viewers with these kinds of questions.
Liv (played by Eaton) has lived her life on a secluded island off the coast of Maine. She has been raised by her grandfather Lionel (Harris Yulin), a retired neurologist. At some point when Liv was young child, she ceased talking. There were no physical or evident psychological reasons. She just didn’t talk anymore. Lionel has read her everything from P.G. Wodehouse to Michel Foucault, but her favorite is Shakespeare.
When Lionel discovers he is dying, he recruits Michael (Teddy Sears), a former student and the son of a friend, to come to the island to protect Liv, along with Lionel’s attorney (Frankie Faison), so she can continue to live the life she has created. One evening when Lionel’s voice fails during the reading, Liv takes the book and begins to read. The words of Shakespeare become the words by which she speaks to the world.
But Michael ignores Lionel’s wishes and seeks to cure Liv of her “communication disorder”. He ends up having her committed to a psychiatric hospital. There, she rebels. She will only speak lines of Shakespeare. In time, Michael will realize his attempt to “cure” her only brought harm.
Language is very much at the heart of this story. When Liv ceased talking, it might have been interpreted as leaving the world. Yet, she had friends and people who loved her on the island. When she chooses Shakespeare as her new language, that is not just convenient language, but it invokes a different world—one that other people may not value as she does.
To use a line from Hamlet, “Aye, there’s the rub.” For those who want Liv to fit the patterns of their own world, she seems to be pathological. That is a category they understand. But perhaps their insistence of conformity is a pathology in itself. Michael discovers that Liv does not need to become like others; he needs to find the truth of her understanding of the world. She does not need to be cured. She needs to be accepted and encouraged in her life.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds ….” The medical staff in the hospital represent the forces that want to conform all things to the world. But we should realize that many parts of the life of faith require a different understanding of the world. And sometimes even our language manifests that difference. For example, we call the day in which Jesus was executed “Good Friday”. Where the world sees failure, we see triumph.
That different attitude also leads us to see the world differently than others. We see other people as children of God, and thus our family. We see God’s creation as a great gift, so we have a great responsibility to care for it. We believe that weakness can be more powerful than strength. There may be a certain amount of pathology to faith.
Liv’s world was something that Michael needed to appreciate for his own happiness. Perhaps that is how our faith will bring transformation not just to ourselves, but to the world that has conformed to its own pathology.
The Sounding is available on Apple TV.
Photos courtesy of Giant Pictures.