The Whisperers

The Whisperers

The Whisperers is a 1967 British drama film directed by Bryan Forbes and starring Edith Evans. It is based on the 1961 novel by Robert Nicolson. Star Edith Evans received many honours for her leading performance, including her third Oscar nomination.


Mrs Margaret Ross, an impoverished, elderly, eccentric woman, is living in a ground floor flat, in an unnamed town in northern England. Aged 76, she is dependent on National Assistance from the British government. She is visited by her criminal son, who hides a package containing a large sum of money in her unused spare room. The son confesses to the police of his robbery, then is sent to jail. Meanwhile, Mrs Ross finds the money. Thinking the money is a windfall intended for her, Mrs Ross makes elaborate plans. She casually confides to a stranger, who befriends her in order to ply her with spirits, kidnap her, then rob her of the stolen money. Rendered drunk and abandoned to the elements by her captors, Mrs Ross contracts pneumonia. She is found by neighbours, then after almost dying, recovers in a hospital. It is the first time anyone has cared for her in years. Doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and social workers all focus on her case. An agent at the National Assistance bureau traces down her husband, Archie (who deserted her decades ago). Motivated by the agent, who threatens him with legal pressure, informing him of his legal responsibility to her, the husband is strongly encouraged to move back in with her, which he does. Soon, he becomes involved with gamblers, then steals their money at a chance opportunity, which forces him to flee, so he deserts her again. Having been on the verge of a return to functional living, Mrs Ross resumes her lonely status as an isolated person, who talks to the walls. This movie depicts these events as occurring during the year 1966, the year that British National Assistance was replaced by Supplementary Benefit.