Many people reach a point in their lives when they begin examining the things they have done, and questioning if their actions were right or wrong. When they reach this ethical crossroads, they realize they have conflicting personality traits that are leading them in different directions. Writer-director Matthew Leutwyler effectively interwove the complex personality traits he embodied when he was going through his divorce into the intricate narrative of his new drama, Answers To Nothing. His interesting film brings together a group of confused and emotionally tortured people, who are striving to find something to make their lives more meaningful.
Answers To Nothing is an emotional ensemble drama that chronicles the lives of several Los Angeles residents who are connected by coincidence, geography or choice. Each character is faced with moral decisions that will not only radically change their life, but the lives of those around them, in ways they least expect.
Therapist Ryan (Dane Cook) and his lawyer wife, Kate (Elizabeth Mitchell), are unhappily married, but are still trying to conceive a child through in vitro. The two are disconnected because Kate is busy working on her newly sober client Drew’s (Miranda Bailey) case; Drew wants to retain guardianship over her disabled brother, much to her parents’ protests. Meanwhile, Ryan is having an affair with musician Tara (Aja Volkman), and he begins to feel guilty over the forbidden relationship, even though she wants to continue seeing him.
Meanwhile, one of Tara’s technicians, Evan (Zach Gilford) begins dating one of Ryan’s patients, Allegra (Kali Hawk), a self-hating television writer; Ryan is trying to help Allegra overcome her hatred towards the world. Meanwhile, Kate’s friend, Frankie (Julie Benz), a detective, is working on a case to find a missing 11-year-old girl. School teacher Carter (Mark Kelly) becomes intrigued by the case, and wants to help find the kidnapper. He tries to convince his neighbor, police officer Jerry (Erik Palladino), to become more concerned with the case, but he’s reluctant to look for the young girl as he’s not assigned to the kidnapping.
Leutwyler effectively brought his real-life experience to his each of the diverse, complex characters in Answers to Nothing. When he first began working on the movie, the filmmaker realized he embodied conflicting personality traits that lead him to his divorce. He thought it would be interesting to take each of his personality traits and develop a character based on each one. As a result, each character is conflicted, confused and looking for something that will make their lives meaningful, but each takes different steps to move forward.
Ryan is one of the more memorable characters in Answers To Nothing, as he’s feeling an overall sense of being lost, and doesn’t know where his personal life is going. He wants to be madly in love with Kate, but feels she’s closed off in her own world. Ryan is also upset with his mother, Marilyn (Barbara Hershey), as she hasn’t come to terms with the fact that his father left her, and won’t be coming home. Knowing he’s far from balanced and holding a quiet anger about his life, Ryan wants to ethically improve his relationships, but doesn’t know if he can.
Cook and Mitchell were well-paired and cast as the estranged couple that doesn’t know how to find their way back to each other; they both understand their characters’ need to make professional and personal changes, in order to improve their lives. Ryan knows that in order to save his marriage and successfully treat his patients, he has to end his affair with Tara. While Cook is known for his stand-up comedy and comedic film roles, he, like Ryan, saw he needed to try something that’s completely foreign to him. Moving out of his comfort zone and taking on such a dramatic role certainly allowed him to enrich his acting abilities.
Mitchell understood her character was stressed to the breaking point as well, and was able to bring a humanity to the role. Kate represents many people who feel that having a child will improve their relationship, and won’t accept that the in vitro will fail. Leutwyler didn’t include as much background on Kate as Ryan, but the actress skillfully picked up on her feelings of loneliness and her need to nurture someone. Mitchell brought a believable fragile nature to the character, struggling to find her place in the world.
While Ryan and Kate are the most developed and intriguing characters in Answers To Nothing, some of the supporting characters were just as interesting, and should have been given more screen time. Tara, for example, is a tough musician who stands up for herself, who doesn’t appreciate being taken advantage of by Ryan; she wants a true relationship with him, and over time, becomes angry he won’t fully commit to her. Viewers will surely be left wanting to see more of Tara’s evolution from an introverted mistress to an explosive, emotional character throughout the course of the drama.
Answers To Nothing is a thought-provoking film that will make its audience question how such diverse people can seemingly function amongst each other until tragedy strikes, forcing them to reevaluate their existence. Most people will definitely relate to at least one character in the drama, whether it be Ryan and Kate, who are discontent with their lives, but don’t know how to fix them; Tara’s need to be loved and nurtured; Drew’s need to correct the mistakes she made while she was drunk; or Allegra’s hatred for things that don’t meet her standards.
With Answers To Nothing, Leutwyler successfully captures the complex, conflicted personalities that we all encompass, and develops a different character based on each of these traits. In the process, he gives us a compelling, true-to-life narrative that audiences will relate to.