Her Master’s Voice – Nina Conti, UK

I’ve always been fascinated and delighted by puppetry, muppets and ventriloquism, so when I read the blurb on this film, I knew I had to make the effort to see this one.

Having done so, I can’t recommend it enough. As I said in my Documentary post, a good one can make you laugh, cry, think, and feel changed at the end.

This one accomplished every one of those aims.

Nina Conti is a brilliant and entertaining comedienne and ventriloquist, but she’s beginning to question whether she can do this for the rest of her life. Thinking about retiring her act, and by extension her dummy, she seeks out the advice of her much-loved but estranged mentor Ken Campbell, only to learn he’s passed. And left her his collection of dummies.

Feeling the need to do something important with them, she goes to Kentucky for the annual Ventriloquist convention with the intention of bequeathing them to Vent Haven, the ventriloquist museum.

Along the way, she talks with herself and to herself, and it’s amazing to watch.

Nina, both the subject and the director of the film, lays her soul bare for the camera, often on the brink of tears in her private moments as she tries to figure out what to do with her life, her new wards, and her perceived worthiness. You don’t feel like you are intruding in those moments, because, to all appearances, she’s having a conversation with someone, even if it is only made of cloth, plastic and foam.

Her companions serve as a voice to all her inner doubts, her fears, worries, and ultimately her support, and it’s simply stunning to watch.

There are moments when in conversation with one of her dummies, she actually seems stunned or taken aback by something they say to her… and you feel that each and every one of them is truly their own person, and not just another side of Nina.

I laughed aloud, had my bottom lip quiver on the cusp of crying as my eyes grew damp, and found myself growing incredibly attached to all of her wards.

The film is an examination of a woman reaching a crossroads in her life, re-evaluating from whence she came, and wondering where she’s going. It’s a first-rate experience, and truly amazing.

Her Master’s Voice is presented on Sunday April 29, at 7:00pm at the Cumberland, Tuesday May 1 at 11:00am at the ROM, and back at the Cumberland on Friday May 4 at 1:30pm.

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