Dreamy 'Till Human Voices' never quite wakes up

There's a dreamily literary quality to writer-director Michael Petroni's "Till Human Voices Wake Us," a distractingly pretty supernatural romance set in a lovely Australian country town. Unfortunately, there's sometimes a fine line between dreamy and sleepy, and "Till Human Voices" crosses that line on occasion, maintaining a determinedly stately pace throughout, and never quite letting Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter wake up.

Nonetheless, there's pleasure to be found here, particularly for those who like T.S. Eliot (the title is taken from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock") and romantic footage of couples in handsome sweaters embracing.

Sam (Pearce), a psychiatrist haunted by a lost first love, meets a mysterious auburn-haired woman named Ruby (Bonham Carter) on the train as he travels to bury his father. The two develop a mystical connection, hampered by Ruby's amnesia and Sam's tormented memories. Who is this woman, really? And what does she want from him?

Pearce and Bonham Carter, with their smoldering eyes and slightly ethereal quality, are well-matched as these star-crossed lovers; they're both gorgeously sad as they struggle with their memories. But Petroni's screenplay reveals the truth to us long before it ever dawns on Sam and Ruby, so we get a little impatient with them.

"Till Human Voices" struggles to maintain a difficult tone — a kind of lush romantic mystery, like Hitchcock's "Vertigo," in which the haunted characters don't entirely know who they love, or why they love. But there's not quite enough mystery here, and no amount of pretty pastoral settings can make up for that.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Movie Review

"Till Human Voices Wake Us," with Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter, Lindley Joyner, Brooke Harman, Frank Gallacher, Peter Curtin. Written and directed by Michael Petroni. 97 minutes. Rated R for a scene of sexuality. Metro.