Steve Buscemi‘s Tribeca 2023 film, THE LISTENER, finds Tessa Thompson playing Beth, a crisis line operator who works the overnight shift. Watching Thompson process callers’ stories in real-time is akin to live theatre. Scenarios range from a call from a formerly incarcerated man, a husband who just told his wife he doesn’t love her, an overburdened mother, a runaway in danger, and more.
Keen-earned viewers will recognize more than a few familiar voices over the phone. Beth’s story is the last to reveal itself. Her final call, which is also the lengthiest, challenges her sense of emotional security but ultimately invites us into Beth’s life in earnest. The camera follows Beth around her apartment. There are moments of silence, but just a few. Thanks to screenwriter Alessandro Camon, THE LISTENER is fully ripe for the stage.
Tessa Thompson is in every single frame. The gentleness in her voice is soothing. Her patience is breathtaking. Underneath her job slips a weary face. The emotional investment is palpable. This performance is a master class in measured behavior. Thompson had me in the palm of her hand.
Steve Buscemi has given audiences a contemplative character study brimming with empathy and humanity. A peak inside the world of mental health workers is nothing short of fascinating. THE LISTENER is a skillfully directed film and another magnificent performance from Tessa Thompson. It’s a must-see at Tribeca 2023.
Wren Arthur, Steve Buscemi, Oren Moverman, Lauren Hantz, Tessa Thompson