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Entanglement

Year: 2018
Production Co: Goodbye Productions
Director: Jason James
Writer: Jason Filiatrault
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Jess Weixler, Diana Bang

It's pretty unfair to complain about actors playing to type. They want to work, and when big studios are making fewer character-driven movies and the only other markets are the streaming giants or the armies of small production companies that fill the VOD airwaves, they have to take what they can get.

So you have to forgive Thomas Middleditch (TV's Silicon Valley) for being his most Thomas Middleditch-ey with the eternally confused expression, muttered rejoinders he should have said aloud half a minute earlier and even the wardrobe – there's probably no item of clothing that's more Middleditchesque than the woolly cardigan.

It's the same character he plays in Silicon Valley and did in Sundance favourite The Bronze a few years back, and he does it perfectly. One of the things that makes you realise just how well he plays the role of miserable loner Ben is that in several scenes he finds himself talking to his own image in the bathroom mirror, and the mirror image that answers him is quick witted, acerbic, profane and has no time for his loser other self. It's a flash of Middleditch playing strongly against type, and for him to play a character like that in an entire film would really be acting.

The reason Ben is talking to another Ben in the mirror is because the film has a slightly fantastical and whimsical dimension – as the title suggests, it's got to do with the scientitic principle of particles connected across time and space.

Other scenes that depict it are when he and love interest Hanna (Jess Weixler) are watching cartoon deer cavort in the forets, when they dive into an indoor public pool to find it full of beautiful luminescent jellyfish or when Ben follows a length of twine for miles to meet his ultimate destiny.

Such scenes might be because Ben is losing his mind, it might be because Hanna is some ethereal angel figure or it might just be a statement on the part of director Jason James about it being more than a love story dramedy. The final scenes of the movie and the big reveal they contain go some of the way to explaining all the weird visuals, but it doesn't tie them together entirely successfully – making it feel like James just chucked in scenes of magic and whimsy to remind himself what kind of movie it is.

Ben is miserable because his life has crumbled after his wife's left him. He can't muster any enthusiasm for anything in life or even see how big a torch his cute neighbour Tabby holds for him. Instead, he's made a timeline of pivotal events on his wall in order to go back and see where his life diverged onto a new path and all went wrong.

As if by fate, his parents reveal to him that there's a woman who was going to be his sister – they were preparing to take delviery of their adopted daughter when they unexpectedly fell pregnant with Ben, meaning the baby went to another family.

Ben convinces himself if he'd had a sister to share life with everything would have been better for him, so he sets about finding her. But when he does in the beautiful, forthright and fun-loving Hanna, things turn a corner. Despite his reluctance to engage with life, Hanna leads him on a series of ever-crazier adventure (breaking into a local pool after hours to swim, dance parties, etc) and their feelings deepen, only complicating Ben's life more.

At first Entanglement seems like an out and out comedy – the first scene sees Ben trying and failing to commit suicide by various means in true dark comedy fashion – but when Hanna enters the picture it goes into a less expected direction. The tone of the film isn't handled entirely successfully as you never really know where things are going, which isn't a problem in itself, but when it gets there it doesn't seem to add up to very much.

Middleditch is front and centre but Weixler is the true star of the show. A very talented actress who's not just pretty but so expressive and watchable she'd be entertaining reading the phone book, she deserves much more recognition than she has.

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