When evening sets in, Beth (Tessa Thompson) is one of many volunteers manning helplines to lend a kind ear to people in crisis. The Listener charts a night in Beth’s life listening to the problems of faceless people and trying her best to help them. Always difficult, often disturbing, and, on that rare occasion, transformative, Beth’s night provides a cross-section of American society through the prism of mental health.
Directed by Steve Buscemi, The Listener is that rare chamber piece that is often as tense as a globe-trotting thriller. Beth not only has to talk down those who are about to end their own life, but also deal with creeps over the phone. Thompson is joined by a number of well-known voices on the other end of the line, including Rebecca Hall, Jamie Hector, and Alia Shawkat. With its emphasis on conversation, The Listener proves itself to be a stirring testament to the power of empathy.––Jarod Neece