‘The Listener’ Review: The Side Effects of Pandemic Living

by The Technical Blogs


“The Listener” — directed by Steve Buscemi — opens with the sound of an unanswered phone and the thrum of a city before turning its lens on Tessa Thompson’s character, who lies in bed, staring upward, before beginning her late shift as the crisis helpline volunteer “Beth.” Written by Alessandro Camon and shot in 2021, this hushed drama takes on a pandemic many Americans experienced and continue to, even post-quarantine: loneliness.

During the shift, callers we never see engage or push against Beth’s patient if practiced prompts. Even amid distress, the callers tend to maintain a frayed, respectful civility. An exception comes in the form of a guy one might call-tag as an incel if insults didn’t feel so at odds with a movie rife with compassion.

While some of the characters sound too much like avatars of a cultural moment, there are memorable exchanges: Alia Shawkat voicing a woman whose anguish soars and plunges with a slam poetry lyricism and Jamie Hector portraying a veteran struggling with a recurring nightmare. For their part, Buscemi and Thompson utilize the complementary power of stillness and the close-up to create a portrait of a woman who hears so much and divulges so little.

The actor Rebecca Hall brings withering and wry certainty as a college professor working through the philosophical logic and practical logistics of suicide. In a twist, she doesn’t begin with a monologue of despair but with a question that cracks open a mystery that has hung over “The Listener” from the start.

The Listener
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on most major platforms.


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