instagram logo
twitter logo
rss logo
rss logo

Patience and Focus in The Listener


ff words logo
ff words logo
ff words logo

By: Isaac P. Ale
March 25, 2024

Tessa Thompson in The Listener The Listener [2022]

Film

Premiering at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, the Steve Buscemi directed film The Listener will be coming to theaters March 29th thanks to a February distribution agreement. Starring Tessa Thompson as the only on-screen role, the film weaves its way through a litany of pandemic related experiences, along with broader microcosms of everyday struggles.

Beth (Thompson), the sole focus of the film, is a helpline volunteer. Fielding calls throughout her night shift in the lonely low lighting of her home where callers range from the depressed, to the distressed. Her first interaction, setting the tone for the film, involves an ex-convict Michael (Logan Marshall-Green) whose recently been released from prison. Calling for the single purpose of having someone to talk to, Michael talks about many of the new adjustments in his life including the paradox of having to wear a mask into a store due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas in his past, a mask being put on to go into a store meant much more sinister goals as opposed to doing your part for the well-being of at risk members of society.

Within these callers, and their psyches, is the underlying power of The Listener. Its depiction of loneliness.

Beth resides alone, often the only living being occupying the frame aside from a couple shots shared with her dog, and talks to a single person at a time. Another lonely soul, craving human connection and help. The reference to the pandemic from Michael paints a coherent vision for the film, one that Buscemi captures beautifully through low lit scenes and methodic camera movements. There was a lot going on during that time, yet at the same point there was nothing going on. But no matter what, there were moments of sheer loneliness, where all you needed was to talk to someone, and for them to listen.

Thompson does an excellent job communicating through facial expressions, the ever so slight pursing of lips or squint of her eyes, to display the emotions occurring over the course of a shift as a helpline volunteer. Buscemi effectively utilizes Thompson's performance, along with a wonderful set, to portray the loneliness of such times. Its unclear where Beth lives, or even what time it is in her shift because she could be anywhere and there could be someone needing to talk at any time. The ambiguity of Beth's life makes The Listener that much more applicable, and that much more human.

Tessa Thompson as Beth in The Listener The Listener [2022]

While the film can be slow at times, the patience needed for a viewing is reflected back to the viewer through Thompson's Beth. Carefully listening, empathizing, and responding to people in need. Some of the conversations are hard to listen to, but are important facets of dark times for people that might need to be revisited for growth. Each caller is working up the strength to call Beth, while Beth collects strength from each conversation to make a call of her own at the end of the film. We don't know a lot about Beth, but that is a tribute to the focus of The Listener. There's no extra fluff that isn't necessary to drive Beth's shift forward. All there is, and needs to be, is Beth answering call to call and the viewer internalizing the conversation as if a fly on the wall.

Some conversations feel more artificial than others. Written with unnatural language that comes off as a bit off putting. These conversations mixed in with the more natural create an ebb and flow of human interactions and those that feel more robotic. It can be distracting at times, pulling you from the heart of the film. Although in the end, Thompson's soothing patience combined with Buscemi's focus as a director create a tight package that's more consistent than not.

Froth

Given the cozy low lit vibes of Beth's home, it's best to enjoy the film with a brew that echoes such feelings. If Beth is a reflection of patience to watch the film and empathize with each caller, or want to help them, then we can have a beer that does the same with the setting. Métier Brewing Company's Scotch Ale is a little stronger than the usual beverage I'd pick for this film but its taste is a perfect match. The gorgeous dark amber color is a close match to Beth's home lighting, where everything is soaked in red hues from singular lamp shades. Creating little stations across her home, waiting for her to take the helm for her noble tasks. A slight smoky aroma in the Scotch Ale helps to guide you through the mystery of each interaction. Not to mention, malt and caramel sweetness will help uplift you during some of the darker moments. Well, that and the 7% ABV.

Scotch Ale
3.75

Scottish Ale

Métier Brewing Company

7%

You May Also Like:

The American Society of Magical Negroes - A Wayward Satire

The American Society of Magical Negroes - A Wayward Satire

One Life - An Incredible Story Told Plainly

One Life - An Incredible Story Told Plainly

One Life - An Incredible Story Told Plainly

It's Denis' World, We're Just Living In It

facebook logo
instagram logo
twitter logo
rss logo
rss logo
Subscribe for updates!