Listen (2020) film – Endearing struggle of the parents

Listen - A Portuguese couple, immigrants from London, face critical quandaries when Social Services decide to take their children away. The film speaks in detail about how the couple handles the hurdles.

‘Listen’ is a Portuguese movie directed by Ana Rocha de Souza, released in October 2020. The film is the official entry from Portugal for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category at the 93rd Acadamy awards. Of course, as the time eases closer towards the Acadamy Awards, scheduled to take place on April 25, 2021, the attention towards the film will grow. Well, enough of the speculations. Let’s dive in.

The Family

The film begins with the couple Bela (Lúcia Moniz) and Jota (Ruben Garcia) struggling to make their ends meet. They have three children – an elder boy, his sister, and a newborn baby. Even as their daughter’s hearing aid gets damaged beyond repair, they try to hold on to it rather than buying a new one. They send her to the school knowing that the school will scold them for not buying her a new hearing aid. However, they don’t have the financial support to buy her a new one. That becomes a problem, at least by the rules of social services who plan a regular visit to their home.

As they prepare themselves for their visit, something unexpected happens out of the blue. Their little daughter is found to have bruises on her back, which the school takes up seriously. They inform about the bruises to the social services, who then take things into their hands. 

Social Services

Well, that was pretty quick. Let’s slow down a bit. Social services in London and European countries have strict rules and regulations when it comes to childcare. If children are found to be abused by their parents, they will be taken under their care until adopted to foster parents. Though there is no official statement regarding the adoption process, going by the film, this seems to be the case.

Getting back to the plot, as they await the social services’ visit, they barge in along with the police to take the children away. The bruises on the child, the parents’ ignorance in buying an essential item (hearing aid) bind together to project a picture of non-caring parents to the social services. So they barge in and take the children away.

The split

This scene is beautifully shot – beautiful in the sense that it shatters our hearts. It is so real and blunt that it moves us so hard. As a matter of fact, this reminded me highly of a scene from the Chinese movie ‘Dearest’ wherein both the mothers converse, pleading with one another on how important their child is to each of them. 

Listen (2020) - Bela and Jota
Listen (2020) – Bela and Jota

The scene happens out of the blue that its impact becomes even more precise. The scene’s impact is so strong that we are entirely hooked to it, knowing very well that it is going to change the course of their lives. This scene also sets the direction for the movie to move on further. 

After this incident, there is an exquisite silence that paves the way for us and the characters to restore the breaths. After all, 

                   After a storm comes the calm.

The parents now try in vain to convince the officers. The social services leave them behind as they couldn’t afford to buy children’s essentials. The lawyers leave them behind as they couldn’t afford to hire one. Did they hurt their children? Did they get them back? ‘Listen’ answers these questions through an emotional journey. 

The problems with the system

The film portrays the problems with the current Child care systems across countries. Child care and money are often interlinked together, that the existence of a more important factor called love is often neglected. The same happens here when the children clearly express their wish to be with the parents while the social services have other ideas. Even if the system is, in reality, not as bad as the film tries to portray, there are certain aspects that need to be addressed pretty soon. 

‘Listen’ is a noble attempt at trying to portray a prevailing problem engagingly. Like most films that handle a similar theme, ‘Listen’ also doesn’t try to solve the problems. Rather, it tries to stress the importance of understanding the problem deeply in order to arrive at a solution (Ex – Smuggling Hendrix). 

Listen – The Fall

‘Listen’, despite having a strong first act, fails in its third act due to the cliched execution. The film could have more impactful if the final act were scripted a bit more strongly. The court scene, especially, looks outdated and unwanted, considering the primary theme of the film. The film’s ending is abrupt and leaves behind too many unanswered questions to add to the woes. 

Listen (2020) - Their daughter
Listen (2020) – Their daughter

In fact, it fails to answer the basic questions that would naturally tend the viewers’ pity towards the parents. We are never shown or told how the child got the wound. We are not told of what happens to the boy and the little child. The effort put into the final part seems illogical, especially after setting a strong base with the first and second acts. If not for the poorly executed third act, ‘Listen’ is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year. 

With that being said, this is still a great film to watch. The actors have put in the right amount of effort into conveying the story emotionally within our hearts. A special mention has to be made for Lúcia Moniz’s acting. She steals the show, hands down. She uplifts herself in the courtroom scene. 

Being the official selection from Portugal for the ‘Best International Feature Film’, the film deserves a hearty round of applause. 2020 hasn’t been a great year for us, but there is 2021. And, as always, there is hope. 

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