VOD film review: Listen
James R | On 01, Jun 2022
Director: Ana Rocha De Sousa
Cast: Lucia Moniz, Sophia Myles, Ruben Garcia, Maisie Sly, James Felner
“Please. Please.” Those are the words of the social services as they try to calm down Bela and Jota, the parents of Lucy and Diego, as well as baby Jessy. They’re in their home to take their kids away, believing them to be at risk of harm. Every time Bela protests, the social services agents just keep saying “please”, not as a request but as a blunt order – a dispassionate catch-all designed to shut down any possibility of conversation. At no point do they say thank you.
That kind of faceless bureaucracy is at the heart of Listen, a film in which the people who are meant to help those in need do anything but. That Lucy is deaf only means the message hits home harder.
If that sounds heavy-handed, you’re not wrong: Listen is a movie that doesn’t believe in understating its point, with the social services painted in largely one dimension. There’s little room for nuance within the government’s care arm here, aside from a rogue worker (Sophia Myles) who helps the couple, and even then, the lack of screen time she gets leaves that side of the film feeling under-explored.
What is explored in full, though, is the heart-wrenching experience of Lucy’s parents. Lúcia Moniz (best known for her turn in Love, Actually) is fantastic as the devastated mother, who has done nothing wrong. Her increasingly distressed presence is perfectly judged, never becoming melodramatic or hysterical and always in finely tuned balance with the low-key intensity of Ruben Garcia as her husband.
The script is excellent at capturing the way that just a few small things gone awry can push a migrant household on the edge of poverty into extremely dire circumstances. The film’s secret weapon, though, is the magnificent Maisie Sly, who starred in the Oscar-winning short film The Silent Voice. She’s warm, scared, angry and vulnerable from one moment to the next and brings an authenticity to the family dynamic that tugs at the heartstrings – when she and Bela are told they can’t communicate in sign language because the social workers can’t understand it, it’s utterly heartbreaking. The result is a thoughtful and sincere drama that may feel occasionally-sided but never feels anything less than genuine.