Answers to Nothing (2011) Review

Answers to Nothing poses several different scenarios and then connects to a central theme of self-acknowledgement, involving each of the players. Wrought with depth, here is a film that purges the ugliest aspects of the banal and makes a very public request to forgive and forget.

Dane Cook is Ryan, a therapist at odds with the dominant women in his life. His wife, Elizabeth Mitchell as Kate, is desperately trying to conceive and it has drastically altered their personal life. Barbara Hershey is Marilyn, the mother who has over-romanticized views of an absent husband that have drastically affected her adult son. Allegra, Kali Hawk, is a patient who has issues with self-loathing that perplex his sensibilities. All of this against the backdrop of an ongoing search for a missing person, led by Kate’s best friend, Julie Benz.

There are layers and levels to each individual as there are layers and levels to each aspect of the story. Complex and intricately woven, is this rendering of everyday people caught in self-inflicted purgatory when charged with the task of looking in the proverbial mirror. Each shares a certainty of belief in the absence of self-worth and suffers within the prison that has been built around love and its apparent shortcomings by way of overwhelming responsibility.

The ever evolving search for the missing person introduces an acute suspense and unveils the relative impotence so rampant in each character. As the film progresses, audiences will recognize how the search represents the visceral need to trust self and follow through on hunches, gut feelings and the like. It plays into the roles we choose to inhabit daily and the ability these roles give us to exercise freedom.

With every snippet into the lives of the characters, it becomes clear that there is more than meets the eye. The use of shallow depth focus creates the intimacy of a hushed conversation among comrades. Audiences are invited to find themselves within the logic and thought process of each little morsel of human nature. No one is ever truly hero or victim. These are people, no more unique than the effort they put forth towards what they can do to accomplish their best.

There are fifty-two speaking parts. This allows audiences to gauge a situation based on any number of relevant and voluntary admissions. These range from whimsical and naive to militant and untruthful. Although the title implies a story without ending, Answers to Nothing allows for revelation and growth among its core characters. Whereas, humanity may never know why life was created, it is possible to recognize the motivation behind action and, thus, response.

The longing of a woman for a man she hasn’t seen in years is more about her idea of self in the dichotomy of her relationship than a tangible object of desire. A wife, unable to conceive, manifests her desires of happiness on her non-communicative husband. A young woman so conflicted by her ideas of societal expectations, she is unable to communicate her sincerest insecurities and aspirations.

Alternately, a detective and mother so jaded by people’s apathy towards one another, she is paralyzed against action based solely on the constraints of her employ. A teacher enlightened by insight and an unshakable need to protect the innocent finds within himself the strength to take action.

Shot entirely in Los Angeles, several different neighborhoods comprise the landscape that is Answers to Nothing, a veritable exploration of the city and its heartbeat. From the side streets of downtown and East Los Angeles to the lush lawns of West Los Angeles and into The Valley, sunny days and clear skies never felt so weighted and introspective.

There is a vulnerability to this film that is endearing. It has a need to validate certain decisions that can be quite common among the working class. This is where the mirror becomes most humbling: whatever the agony of the individual, the cause is the individual. There are varying levels of acceptance and so life goes on.

Answers to Nothing is intense with moments of constrained clarity. This is not for the weak of heart or easily offended. Answers to Nothing tackles mature subject matter and makes no apologies for its raw and aggressive context. See this movie with someone who knows you well and loves you anyway.