“Crisis Hotline” is a thriller and so much more. Simon (Corey Jackson) faces heretofore unknown anxiety as he tries to deal with his first phone call. The film is totally set during the night shift and we are taken back to other times through flashbacks and all we need to know, we learn from telephone conversations about Danny, “a high-achieving but low-paid programmer whose disappointment with his new life in the California is dispelled” after having been involved in a relationship with his new boyfriend, Kyle. All seemed good and filled with passion until the relationship takes a dark turn after Danny is introduced to Kyle’s friends.
As Danny’s account moves forward, we go back to Simon as he tries to convince a caller to be calm and this is happening, the film begins dealing with deceit and exploitation. We soon feel the suspense of the happenings and this is aided by the atmosphere created by director Mark Schwab. Together with that suspense are many important ideas for us to wade through.
We watch the progression of the relationship between Danny and Kyle persuasively and we feel both their happiness and their agony. This is a film that touches our senses through its use of nuance and the betrayal in the relationship is very palpable, so much so that I found myself to be angry when the characters are feeling angry and I felt tears running from my eyes seeing their behavior toward each other. This is an upsetting film yet it is also a depiction of humanity that shows our inability to control behavior or outcomes. We are actually only able to control ourselves and who we are and how we react to emotional and physical situations. Even though love is glorious and beautiful, horrors are present, only to be discovered as love progresses (or doesn’t). We see everything through the eyes of Simon as we move between his life and the past of the caller and with suicidal intentions and how they came to be. The film shows how director Schwab views happiness and productivity by bringing forward uncertainty and imagination.
Simon sees the calls that he gets as the products of delusions and therefore non-important. He feels that there calls just reflect discrimination and or not important. He understands that this discrimination does not require immediate help and not what he was expecting when coming to work at the hotline. He had hoped that he would be able to help people who were seriously facing death and he becomes frustrated until the call from Danny (Christian Gabriel).
That call causes him to listen closely and use the best methods to help Danny, who shares how he got to where he is and thus give a perspective (which is either real or not). Aware that he cannot handle this alone, Simon asks for help from Curtis (Mike Mizwicki), a co-worker and who really tries to be fair about Danny’s situation. However, we see that this is not going to be an easy effort.
Danny speaks of his relationship with Kyle (Pano Tsaklas) who convinced Danny that can love. At first, Simon feels that Danny is acting out of impetuousness and that he is not serious about ending his life because of a love affair gone bad. Simon constantly tries to tell Danny that he is lacking context but soon realizes that Danny’s truthfulness is not forthcoming. Danny explains that at the start of the relationship everything seemed real but things stated to get bad when Danny met Lance (August Browning) and Christian (Christopher Fung), two of Kyle’s friends who came across as insincere and caused Danny and Kyle’s relationship to hut the skids. But that was not all—Kyle had a secret of his own and that was the last straw.
Schwab shows us the relationship from the beautiful beginning to the secret that becomes the reason to re-evaluate what they had to the betrayal that slowly comes to us. Now we see that the relationship is headed for an end with Danny ready to take his own life. He uses the hotline as a way to tell the truth about it and so that he would not die alone. He wants to have someone hear why he has reached this point. As Danny and Simon speak, the topic of suicide turns into talk about murder and we move into Danny’s past and the mess that was caused by Lance and Christian who do drugs and engage in wild sexual escapades. Kyle tempts Danny into licentiousness and Danny becomes only a token of who he once was. We learn that Lance and Christian have a pornography network and while Danny tries to balance his feelings for Kyle and his sneaky maneuvers helping Lance and Christian. Danny is in love with Kyle while Kyle must deal with his feelings for a better lifestyle that can come from his two friends. Even though Danny and Kyle love each other, reality says something else. This was Danny’s first love and it blinds him for a while. Those of us who have been in relationships realize that they are based on trust and compromise. Both men taken in by the promise of the beauty of love— they loved each other’s company and really cared for each other but Kyle chose another path which included dishonesty.
When we first meet Simon, we see him as upset and demoralized by this job at the hotline. He was not getting what he needed from his work— he really want those who were deep in need to call in and that is what he got with Danny. Simon works hard to pursued him that his own death and/or the death of others will not close any doors or solve any problems. Is there a solution to a situation like this? As “Crisis Hotline” comes to a close, there are still many unanswered questions (and no spoiler here).
The acting is terrific all around and the film does what any good film should do— it makes us think both while we are watching and when it is over. In this film, everything works.