Answers to Nothing join films like Crash and Babel in the multiple-stories-that-interlock genre. In this Crash-like (or lite) film, director and co-writer Matthew Leutwyler interweaves various lives in Los Angeles to tell a story of loneliness and brokenness.
Ryan (Dane Cook) is having an affair with rock singer Tara (Aja Volkman), all while trying to have a child with his wife Kate (Elizabeth Mitchell). By day, Ryan is a psychologist who is treating Allegra (Katie Hawk), the only African-American writer for a television show. Allegra meets Evan (Zach Gilford) while walking her dog, and they begin a relationship. Evan is the sound engineer for Tara’s band. In the meantime, Kate is a lawyer whose client Drew (Miranda Bailey) is fighting with her parents for custody of her ex-marathon-running, now-paralyzed brother Eric.
Kate is also friends with Officer Frankie (Julie Benz). Frankie is investigating a missing girl case. Frankie’s daughter is in Carter’s (Mark Kelly) class. Carter is a school teacher who rushes home to get on his computer and play an online fantasy video game. One of Carter’s neighbors is Jerry (Erik Palladino) who ritually gets ready each day by putting his police uniform on and walks his beat around his apartment.
The interlocking connections are weak at best. The missing girl is supposed to be the centerpiece of the film. Yet the film seems to be drawn to two more dominant storylines. Drew’s determination to care for her paralyzed brother while struggling with her past addiction to drinking and Ryan’s struggle with his own life, like his relationship with his wife, his relationship with his parents, and his affair with Tara, all stand out. The characters are compelling, the filmography is excellent, but the writing leaves much to be desired. This would have made an excellent television series, with more time to develop the characters and their situations. There is so much more about these people we do not get to learn. And at the end there are still questions left to be answered.
The cast is exceptional. Miranda Bailey’s Drew is the most convincing character in the film and the most developed. Dane Cook is an interesting pick for Ryan, though it was good to see him in a non-comedic role. Aja Volkman was a perfect pick for Tara. Mark Kelly plays Carter well, leaving us wondering more about his personality. And finally, it is great to see Julie Benz in a strong role. Hers is a character that would be great to see developed more.
Though these different vignettes are condensed into one film, it is a decent film drawing our attention to the case of humanity. We are broken. We make good decisions and we make bad decisions. Our decisions in the present are at times affected by the decisions we have made in the past and, at times, our brokenness leaves us lonely. Even when we are surrounded by people who love us, we can still be lonely. Ryan responds to his loneliness by sleeping with Tara; Tara responds to her loneliness through her music; Kate responds to her loneliness by focusing on having a baby; Drew responds to her loneliness by caring for her brother; Carter responds to his loneliness through video games; Jerry responds to his loneliness through keeping his daily ritual. And all of these choices and actions simply leave us with answers to nothing.
The film doesn’t end with answers to nothing, or with brokenness. As the film comes to a conclusion we see the characters making decisions that show they are ready for a change… for transformation.