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“Listen” displays various teenage conflicts

“Listen” director and writer Erahm Christopher leads active listener training in the media center. Photo by Rebecca Schneid

*This story was originally published in the second quarter issue of the Eagle Eye*

Death is inevitable, but an untimely death, especially at one’s own hand is preventable. Writer and Director Erahm Christopher creates a hyperbolic tale to demonstrate his perception of the best action to take in preventing an untimely demise through active communication. To put it simply, a person must “listen.”

“Listen” is a film aiming to emulate the human experience, and frankly it does a good job in doing so. The film accomplishes this through its visuals and expansive ensemble cast. Cinematic techniques, such as point of view and jump cut montages, put the viewer in the shoes of a character in the film, having them watch events as they transpire. The film even goes so far as to manufacture a real world aesthetic through its use of fairly neutral lighting tones and the inclusion of natural sounds. It is in this reviewer’s opinion that the movie is well produced from a technical standpoint, but when it comes to actor performances and overall story beats, the movie misses the mark.

A key component throughout the film is an English assignment on the topic of influence. The film poses the question, whether it be positive or negative, “who influences you?” This idea of influence is sprinkled throughout the overall film leading into the effect of said influence, being the legacy left behind. Characters strive to accomplish something, be it finding their dog, winning a wrestling match, losing a few pounds or bettering the life of just one student. The characters interact with one another to form bonds that last long after they are gone.

Many of the characters have similar situations in the sense that they come from broken homes. Josh lost his mother and brother, Summer, Dresean and Benny have no father to be seen, and Mr. Helfore has a strained relationship with his own father due to his sexuality. Death, divorce and close mindedness all affect this cast of characters and influence their actions and behavior throughout the film.

This film holds a powerful and deep message in communication and influence. However, this message is so deep that it is almost hidden from its audience under all the noise of the movie, whether it be the actual abundance of background noise, drowning the characters’ thoughts and actions under a pool of sound, or the excessive noise of side plots. While reality is actively portrayed in the film, a story must be more focused to drive in its main points.

Much of the film, while semi-entertaining, is in fact extraneous to say the least. The entire Jun story of looking for his dog, while it is a great example of a holistic world, slows down the ideas against teen suicide and self-harm presented in Summer and Josh’s stories. The idea of not letting outside influences affect you negatively, as portrayed by Benny as he leaves his gang, is more important than the bully redemption arc presented through the death and replacement of Jun’s dog.

These concepts do link together and affect each other, as Mr. Helfore is confronted by Benny’s gang when he tries to save Benny and the two are beaten and stabbed. These events lead Mr. Helfore away from Josh, ultimately leaving Josh with nobody to listen during his time of need. Another example of these connections would be how Summer dropping her breakfast on the road in an attempt to shave body weight leads to the dog’s death as the dog is hit by a car carrying the bully.

“Listen” is a movie that aims to rear young viewers away from the actions of self-harm and teen suicide. This message is like a tide, drowning the viewers in its cause at one point and receding to another topic altogether at the next. The side plots and sound mixing leave much of the story faded into obscurity as the apple core of the movie’s message is crawling with tacked on worms. The film is, at points, still quite thoughtful and displays to a young audience the need for communication. In summary, the viewer was more than willing to listen, but they couldn’t hear. 

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