‘The Listener’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: How Did Beth Help Laura?

People don’t always like to share their emotional issues because they are misjudged as weak or even made fun of by their peers. Being vulnerable around others is so hard, right? I see this in the film The Listener. Beth, a helpline counselor, takes calls throughout the night from people who are scared, lonely, humiliated, or even on the brink of suicide. They just want someone to validate their feelings and stop them. They just need to know someone is there for them, listening. That can feel like such a relief, right? But we also see Beth’s own pain. She hides so many feelings from the world. Can Beth help them all, or even herself? She’s there to listen to their pain, but she can’t save everyone, right? Humans are hard to understand, and sometimes being misunderstood can influence them to make some bad decisions in life. Also, before I watched The Listener, I didn’t know it was created by one of my favorite actors, Steve Buscemi. If you’ve seen Fargo or Reservoir Dogs, you know the name pretty well. Now, it’s time to dive into the movie!


Spoilers Ahead

Who is Beth?

Beth lives alone in her apartment with her dogs. If you look closely at her place, you’ll see so many things scattered around that give you the idea that she’s always in a state of uncertainty and panic. Looking at these things calms her, though. She wakes up late at night to take calls from the Lonely Hearts Club helpline because she’s a counselor there. Isn’t it ironic? Beth can be seen as one of the loneliest people out there, yet she always try to help others because she knows what its like to feel lonely. She hides from the world and pretends to be okay when she’s not. To stay awake at night, she drinks espresso and listens to people’s concerns. She’s been doing this job for years and never gets bored. 


In the film, the first call she gets is from a guy named Michael, who got out of prison last year. From Michael, we get an insight into how it feels for ex-cons to live in a normal environment. Nothing feels normal to him because he has forgotten what normal is. He remembers how, in prison, there was no difference between day and night because he didn’t know how to pass the time. Even though he’s out, he still doesn’t feel free. He doesn’t have a proper job and lives with his grandmother. But being lonely isn’t new for him; he’s been used to it since his father went to prison when he was six, and he never really knew his mother. Now, struggling to find a job and cope with loneliness has become his new normal. 

Beth feels sorry for Michael and wants to help him find a job, but he doesn’t want it—not because he doesn’t need it but because he’s just tired. Then, Beth gets a call from an unknown caller, a husband who just told his wife he doesn’t love her anymore. She locked herself in, and he wasn’t really sad but rather relieved. He believes his wife won’t kill herself because they have three children. He thinks she can’t be that selfish, but what about his own selfishness? It really makes you say, “Men!”. Then we see Beth struggling to hold herself together in a conversation with a guy tired of getting rejected. This guy is in desperate need of validation. He thinks he’s not weird, he’s enough, and he’s justified in taking revenge on a girl who humiliated him by kissing another guy. 


Calling Beth is his way of seeking validation. Beth, as a counselor, has to stay calm. We see her using a stress ball and scribbling on her page to get through this. She tries to help this guy until she loses patience. When he insists, she repeats that he is enough and he should focus on his respectable IT job because that is a productive way to channel his feelings. This makes him euphoric, trying to get pleasure from her voice and her kind words. It was so disgusting that it made me think of those social media trolls, who try to insult people as it gives them some sort of validation.

Then there’s another caller who is a 18-year-old girl who ran away from her abusive family. But as luck has it she has ended up with a boyfriend who’s also abusive, has a massive anger issue and wants to be her pimp. This makes you think about how the cycle of abuse never really ends. She had so much potential, but her circumstances have trapped her. I feel like many women endure being beaten by their husbands but can’t seek help or stand up for themselves—not because they’re weak but because the circumstances often fail them. I mean, it’s better to get beaten than be homeless or be questioned by society; that’s how they feel. Beth tries to help the girl, but where can she go? Her family won’t accept her, and her abusive boyfriend won’t let her go. She’s trapped. But there was another woman who was suffering from bipolar disorder, whom Beth somewhat helped. That woman’s mind wanders (just like mine); when she wants to talk about one thing, she ends up talking about something else and doesn’t really have clarity of thought. But her thoughts about the world’s brutality—from COVID to arson to child molestation—are deep and clear. Beth tells her to channel her thoughts into poetry or rap, which turns out beautifully at the end, moving Beth to tears. This woman’s brain, which she calls “Brian” because it feels scrambled, struggles to keep up with everything. These conversations make me question one thing: how do people who should think there is nothing wrong with them end up thinking the opposite, while those who actually have issues believe they are the best and everyone else is wrong? Honestly, even though Beth tries to help and save these people, she can’t really do it. I mean, how can you change someone who doesn’t want to change themselves? It feels like a lost cause.


How did Beth help Laura?

As the night goes on and we move towards the climax of the movie, we get introduced to another caller named Laura. Laura is a sociology professor who asks Beth something no one has ever really asked her before: “How are you?” Beth doesn’t know how to answer that question. She realizes she hasn’t asked herself that in a long time. Beth often hides herself from others; we see her closing the blinds so people can’t see her. So, when Laura asks, she sits in silence, feeling it’s too personal to talk about. But this helpline is like AA; transparency must matter between the two, she feels. Beth opens up a bit, and we learn why she wants to help people so much. She’s been an addict, and she even went to jail for a while. After that, she tried to get back on her feet and struggled to be okay. The reason she does this job is that her stepbrother committed suicide. The day he did, he called her many times, but Beth didn’t answer. She feels like she could have saved him if she had, and it hurts her to this day, making her feel like a failure. Little did she know, her caller, Laura, was going through the same pain and guilt and was on the verge of committing suicide. Laura once tried to talk about politics with her students. The dean mistook it, thinking she was imposing her political agenda on them. She got so angry that she punched him in the face. Recently divorced, with no job, no kids, and no savings, she feels completely alone.

Talking to Beth makes her feel even more alone, as she realizes everyone in this world suffers so much. We all have to live with these selfish people, with all the contempt and mistreatment, and then be left alone with no one really caring. It’s too much to bear. But Beth tries to calm her down, saying we have to live for something. If not for people, then maybe for our pets, our food, or just ourselves. There isn’t a particular reason to live, really. If the reason to live is gone, that does not mean we’ll stop living altogether! Talking to Beth calms Laura down, and she decides not to commit suicide tonight. Here, we see Beth revealing her true self when she identifies herself not as Beth but as Maggie, her real name. I think at that scene, she purposefully comes out of her house to talk to Laura, not just to calm her down but also to calm herself. She’s tired of hiding her own pain for so long, but being vulnerable to someone finally feels good. She’s already exposed, so what difference will it make if she’s out in the open from her house, right? I think she’s trying to get comfortable in her own skin. But the feeling of loneliness doesn’t really go away, does it?


In The Listener‘s ending, we see Beth trying to call her friends to meet up and hang out, but they refuses her offer saying that they are busy. But we see that she does not struggle with this rejection as if it’s okay—she has her dog, and there are so many people she can talk to and help. But who will help her? She doesn’t know. In this era of online dating, making Facebook friends, and gaining followers left and right, we’re supposed to feel so connected. So why do we feel more alone than ever? There are so many people in the world, but it feels like no one’s really there to understand your thoughts or help you out of your suffering. Or maybe you don’t want to burden others either. Maybe Beth feels that too. I hope she gets out of her shell and gets the help she needs. After all, a listener needs a listener too, right?

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Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka, a devoted movie enthusiast, embarked on her cinematic journey since childhood, captivated by the enchanting world of the Harry Potter series. This early passion ignited her love for movies, providing an escape into the magical realms of cinema. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in media science, combining her academic pursuits with her unwavering passion for the silver screen.

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