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The Night Listener

Listen Carefully

Amidst a dissolving domestic relationship, radio host Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams) forms an interesting relationship with a young listener, Pete Logand. When Pete’s manuscript falls into Noone’s hands, questions arise about the identity of the young boy. Noone embarks on a search for his listener’s identity that takes him to places dark and confusing in The Night Listener.

Drawn loosely from a true story, Armistead Maupin co-wrote the screen adaptation of his own book, The Night Listener. Maupin was inspired by a failing relationship in his own life with co-writer Terry Anderson. In the screen version, Noone’s failing relationship with his partner serves as a backdrop for the mystery surrounding the young listener’s identity.

Feeling wounded and alone, Noone gravitates towards Pete, who clearly thinks the world of Gabriel. Noone’s curiosity about Pete evolves into a near obsession as he gets closer and closer to what he believes to be the truth about the boy’s identity. Williams previously showed his gift for playing the obsessed in One Hour Photo. While Robin’s performance is markedly understated in comparison to his performance in the aforementioned film, it’s effective.

The performance of note in The Night Listener is put forth by Toni Collette as Pete Logand’s (The Night Listener) mother, Donna Logand. Donna oozes a visceral creepiness that just makes your skin crawl. Donna is not overtly evil or malicious, but there is enough that is off about her to make you want to run and hide. This is remarkable given that Donna is blind and on the surface seemingly harmless, yet Collette manages to inject a level of menace that is palpable.

Director Patrick Stettner takes a solid story crafted by Maupin and Anderson and puts a Hitchcockian spin on it that results in a tense and taut mystery. However, The Night Listener is more than a straightforward mystery. Both Noone and the Logands are clearly lonely, isolated, and damaged in their own way. The story is largely about the true identity of Pete, but it’s also about the search for connection to others as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars