Robin Williams stars in The Night Listener, a slightly creepy but ultimately forgettable thriller about a late night radio talk show host who befriends a dying boy who he eventually comes to believe doesn't exist.
Williams stars as Gabriel Noone, a popular gay host who is going through relationship problems and has found solace in bringing comfort to a 14-year old boy who listens to his show. He strikes up a relationship with the boy and his mother (Toni Collette), but factors lead him to doubt the boy's actual existence. Eventually, Gabrielle travels to the small town where the family is supposed to live and discovers that the address he's been given doesn't exist - but does that mean the boy is imaginary? As he continues to dig deeper, more and more things make less and less sense.
The Night Listener is an interesting premise that is based on true events. It's a creepy idea, that a real man was convinced of a fictional child for some reason unknown. The movie works at a fast pace and keeps the action intense and the drama satisfying, but it also suffers at the hands of a lack of a real conclusion or climax. I don't want to give away many details, but The Night Listener is one of those movies you can respect, but won't remember in a month's time.
Williams carries the film well, marking yet another successful venture as a dramatic actor. We are well past the moment where Williams has to force people to see him as a serious actor, and he continues to show range. At the same time, the speed of the movie doesn't let him do much with his role, despite the fact that he's in just about every scene.
The Night Listener is an effective drama-thriller that poses some intriguing questions, but there is nothing that really blows you away in the end. Some people may like the open-ended approach, but it's hard to say you really enjoyed a film when you know you're just going to forget about it a short while later. The Night Listener is good, but unless you're a serious fan of the genre or of Williams, there are better thrillers out there.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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