Radio storyteller Gabriel Noone has become famous telling tales nightly about him and his gay lover Jess, a man dying of AIDS. When it transpires that Jess might not die due to new wonder drugs, Jess moves out on Gabriel and there 8 year relationship. Jess wants to see what life is all about, having surrendered to the fact that he was going to die for so long. In moving out Gabriel loses his inspiration to tell stories. With this and his emotions running rife his life is in begins to turn to tatters.
Good friend Ashe in the hope to give Gabriel some inspiration gives him a book written by a 14 year old boy. The book tells how the boy in question was the victim of a paedophile ring in a small town in Wisconsin. Having been moved by the book, on a later meeting Ashe asks Gabriel to call the boy whose name is Pete, as it transpires that Pete is a big fan of Gabriel. It’s only a matter of time before the two strike up a friendship over the telephone, the relationship widens as Pete’s new adopted mother Donna joins in their conversations. But this relationship is doomed for Pete is dying, due to diseases picked up during his time being molested. But something else happens that disturbs Gabriel too; when Gabriel calls Jess round to fix the electrics Pete and Donna ring, Jess rather cautiously tells Gabriel that he believes both Pete and Donna are the same person.
The Night Listener is a true adaptation of events that happened to Armistead Maupin, about 20 years ago. The movie divided its viewers with people either loving it, or completely hating it. Made on a shoestring budget I personally found it one of the better movies I had seen when it was made back in 2006
Robin Williams who I have no real love for with the exception of his role in One Hour Photo, plays an almost completely serious role as Gabriel. I keep expecting him to jump into some ridiculous comedy routine, but he never does. He remains straight laced for the entire movie, and as the movie nears its conclusion he becomes a little bit offensive. That being said he plays the role admirably and his character is very likeable. As a man in the public eye who is loved by millions of gay listeners, during the few moments of recollection by fans he remains incredibly well mannered, though at one occasion is almost caught out in a lie.
Toni Collette is almost unrecognisable as Donna whom we initially see as she appears to us in real life; during telephone conversations with Gabriel. However when Gabriel finally meets Donna she looks nothing like he expected her to look having drawn a mental picture in his mind (the image we initially see of Donna). Donna in reality is a well loved and well respected member of her community, for not only is she raising a sick child, but she is also blind.
The story plays on your emotions because you never really can tell whether the story of Donna and Pete is true. For each time you assume this is a confidence trick of sorts, something comes up to question both you as the viewer and Gabriel for carrying out the thoughts of the movies audience. The movie is one of the shorter films I have seen of late with just 69 minutes of actual story between the overly long opening and closing credits. This in my opinion is why the movie works so well, other producer director teams would drag the story out pointlessly; the Night Listener focuses purely on the facts and comes off almost like one of those BBC Drama Documentaries that seemed all the rage at that point in time.
More often than not the movie is filmed in the darkness; this gives the movie an eerie feel from the start to the finish. It also drives the momentum of the story, so on this occasion I commend the use of dark shots (something that normally annoys me). You must also take into account that it’s a good plot device, bearing in mind that Donna is blind.
Whether you like The Night Listener or not, one thing is for sure, it will give you plenty to think about.