You get to your new live-in job, and a few things jump out at you. A room full of taxidermy birds. A flooded quarry nearby. A white-haired lady who wanders into your space, wanting to comb your hair.
Frankly, the dead rabbit tacked above the bathroom mirror should’ve been the last straw. But this appears less than 30 minutes into “Voice from the Stone,” and the new nanny, Verena (Emilia Clarke), appears determined to stick around despite these obvious movie omens.
She’s come to this rambling old villa in Tuscany in order to care for a little boy, Jakob (Edward Dring), who has been mute since the death of his mother eight months earlier. His father, a brooding sculptor (Marton Csokas), is desperate to get the boy talking again, and leaves the job to the crisply professional Verena.
This gothic set-up takes place, rather vaguely, during the 1950s. It carries heavy echoes of “Rebecca,” with the figure of the dead wife looming over poor Verena’s every action.
The dead woman’s voice is around too: Everybody in this movie, at one point or another, crouches next to a wall and puts their ears against the stone.
The walls, and the spooky rooms, are extremely handsome. So are the grounds of the villa. This is a good-looking movie, with lots of eye candy to go along with the general feeling of dread.
But man, it’s a slog. Something like 20 minutes of action is spread out across the 90-minute running time, and the thing feels sluggish even when something is going on.
“Games of Thrones” watchers know that Emilia Clarke has expressive eyebrows, and she keeps them busy throughout the many challenges Verena must face. Clarke’s heavy-breathing approach to the role gives us a fair idea that Verena may not be quite as level-headed as she thinks she is.
Director Eric D. Howell has helmed short films and racked up credits as a stuntman and a special-effects technician. In all that work, he hasn’t solved the tricky business of pacing, nor the touch needed to moderate actors’ performances.
The story comes from a 1996 novel by Italian author Silvio Raffo. It’s easy to imagine the material working better on the page than on the screen. Words could bring Verena’s interior fears to creepy life. Images bring them crashing to the ground.
“Voice from the Stone” (1 1/2 stars)
The new nanny (Emilia Clarke, from “Game of Thrones”) ignores a lot of classic movie omens in this gothic-style suspense picture. Handsome to look at — it’s set in an Italian villa in the 1950s — the film is sluggishly paced and generally overacted.
Rating: R, for nudity, subject matter