“Pins and Needles,” which is dedicated to “those who listen,” is a thank-you card to crisis phone operators around the world – a segment of the population that never gets the public accolades they deserve.
The film balances a suspenseful mystery with a romantic drama, all with a twist. After a brief (and somewhat misleading) introduction of two men in a hallway talking about trying something new, we see Jason (Jeff DeLucio-Brock) on his first night as a suicide-prevention hotline operator. He is introduced to Simon (Mark Balunis), their star quarterback who is to be his mentor on the job.
Simon is not what you might think. He’s a bit jaded and curt, and he doesn’t see himself as necessarily important. He just takes the calls and does his job. But he does his job well.
Shortly after the supervisor leaves, Simon takes his first call of the night. It is a young man named Danny (Devon Lee Glover) who says he wants to kill himself. Simon goes through the motions of his job, but things start to get complicated. Danny has taken an overdose of sleeping pills and washed it down with booze, and he refuses to tell Simon where he is or even his last name.
Simon becomes the shoulder to cry on and allows Danny to tell his story of why he is trying to kill himself, hoping to find clues to the young man’s whereabouts. Throughout a series of flashbacks, we see Danny’s life as a young gay man who is happily partnered with Kyle. They become friends with another gay couple, and soon jealously comes into the picture as the four friends cross sexual boundaries with each other. Soon, their consensual infidelity begins to tear Danny and Kyle’s relationship apart.
During the story, we continually cut to Simon and Jason as they try to track down Danny and hope to save his life. They try a series of tricks, like tracing the call and searching local college directories, to track down the suicide victim.
Glover does an excellent job as young Danny, struggling with his love for Kyle and his fear of the relationship disintegrating. Director Mark Schwab commendably juggles the suspense of Simon on the suicide hotline and the story leading up to Danny’s suicide attempt. And the story keeps you guessing until the resolution.
“Pins and Needles” deals with the issue of homosexuality in a very natural way. It doesn’t try to make a statement about homosexuality either way, which is what makes it so accepting of the lifestyle. Similar to “The Broken Hearts Club,” this film is about gay characters without making it About Gay Characters. “Pins and Needles” could have easily been made about heterosexuals and told pretty much the same story. It just happens that some of the characters are gay.
It’s refreshing to see a film with homosexuals integrated into the story without it being an issue film. This truly shows progress in acceptance and equality.