If you no longer have the ability to control your own thoughts, is that the end of freedom or its birth? That is the big question behind Listening, a psychological thriller that succeeds where similar films have failed by doing one thing: telling a simple and effective story.
The debut feature from writer-director Khalil Sullins, Listening introduces us to grad students David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr) who have fallen on hard times. David is in the process of getting evicted, Ryan’s grandmother is dying and both are too broke to do anything about it.
They think their luck turns around when they meet Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger), who helps them perfect their mind-reading technology. But telepathy causes more problems than it solves, as secrets are revealed, betrayals surface, and the technology is stolen by a covert government agency with a hidden agenda. Is there any other kind?
Listening is an engrossing story because it doesn’t get bogged down in over-the-top action sequences or dry science speak. Motivations are clear and twists – though easily spotted – are effective because they make sense. Too many times in the psychological thriller genre, the story gets sapped by too many red herrings.
Stroppel and Ahr have great chemistry onscreen and play their slow descent into ideological opposition well. Bollinger is terrific as well, as she never feels like the third wheel in the movie. Jordan has her own initiatives in Listening, and they keep the story moving along to the climax.
There are a few cinematic elements that took me out of the film, like overuse of colour to underscore themes and a shaky choice of how to show telepathy onscreen. But those concerns are minimal when the rest of the film is well-done.
Listening is now available on Video On Demand and I rate it 4 out of 5 raindrops.