Selective Listening (2015)


It’s so very rare to see a film like Tim Prescott’s, and one that is so genuine and original. Prescott’s film reminded me a lot of something from Charlie Kaufman of Spike Jonze in where our protagonist is a victim of their mental disability and it somehow unfolds in to an interesting tale of whimsy and tragedy. I can’t believe what I was watching when I sat down to view “Selective Listening.” At times I was baffled, other times I was confused, but throughout the entirety I was completely compelled. “Selective Listening” is a unique take on mental illness, as we center on nice guy Harrison. Harrison is a normal guy who lives alone in his flat, except he’s a victim to his obsessive compulsive disorder. It also doesn’t help matters that he’s a victim of schizophrenia and he can often hear various voices in his head.

Said voices are somewhat manifestations of his psyche, emitting his worst fears, antagonizing him, challenging him, and other times just completely annoying him as he tries to convey some sense of normalcy in his living situation. Everyday Harrison awakens to his usual routine and indulges in a series of puppets he has propped up around his house, all of whom have taken on the personas of the various voices in his head. This has allowed him to sort them out, confront them individually, and somehow display some faint sense of dominance over them. After being influenced by his therapist to socialize, Harrison finds solace in an online social community and begins to fawn over a gorgeous blond aspiring actress known as Amber “Golden” Fleece. Now fantasizing about engaging in a relationship with her, he has to decide if he wants to talk to her in person, or keep her a fantasy for the rest of his life.

Salvatore Stella really keeps “Selective Listening” afloat, as he plays this meek man with a severe illness who struggles to cope with his life day in and day out. For someone so tortured, he’s shockingly mild mannered and pleasant, but he can’t quite figure out how to plug in to society, especially when the puppets garnering his internal voices keep following him around and second guessing every minute gesture and attempt at making new friends. Director Prescott’s screenplay could have easily taken a turn for the disturbing, especially when Harrison considers making bigger decisions that could vastly alter his life for the better or for the worse.

Stella’s performance really seals the deal for “Selective Listening” transforming Prescott’s drama comedy in to a very surreal and fascinating tale of a man struggling to make one friend, and whose own illness could sabotage his attempts. Prescott keeps “Selective Listening” briskly paced and thoughtfully written, examining the personal prison that can be mental illness, and truly exploring how absolutely difficult it is for someone with severe mental illness to simply adjust and try to mix in to everyday civilization. There are also some really fine turns by Camilla Rowland and Emily Holt, as well as memorable voice work by a collective cast of voice actors. If you’re in the market for a different kind of drama comedy with a compelling character journey, “Selective Listening” just might fit your bill. I appreciated its bold off the wall humor and originality and I hope we can see more from director Tim Prescott very soon.