By Alec Deacon
“What kind of narcissist wears a shirt with their own picture on it?”
Ben Levin (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley) is a man struggling with his mental health and searching, always searching, for a reason to live, searching for a reason to die, always searching for the unattainable until one day he finds something he didn’t expect. A chance encounter with a woman named Hanna (Jess Weixler, The Good Wife) leads Ben to a family secret and a quest of realisation that everything and everyone is extraordinarily connected and the possibility that ‘‘…all these little moments, happen for a reason.’’
Entanglement may have a male protagonist in Thomas Middleditch’s Ben, but the story is very much a female driven experience, from Ben’s mother (Marilyn Norry), to the ‘ghost’ of his ex-wife, never really seen but ever present, to his best friend Tabby (Diana Bang, Bates Motel), therapist Dr. Jill Franklyn (Johannah Newmartch, When Calls The Heart), the pharmacist, and Alexa (Jena Skodje) the little girl who Ben exchanges childish arguments with like the fun uncle, due to him seeing a child therapist instead of an adult one.
The women in Ben’s life are very much the physical representations of the parts of Ben’s stable mind and thoughts that are trying to help Ben in his life’s quest, even though he is unable to see that at first. The men on the other hand remain mostly nameless and represent negativity, from Ben’s loudmouth absent father, a male counter clerk, a street photographer and a security guard. Ben’s father belittles him and insults him, the clerk requires a bribe before he will help Ben, even going so far as to explicitly state, ‘‘I am not a good person’’. The security guard interrupts Ben having a moment of enlightenment and fun, while the street photographer is the man who brings Ben to an uncomfortable realisation shattering his dreams so some extent.
Stand-out performances in Entanglement come from its great roster of ladies – a shout out to Jess Weixler’s serendipitous Hanna who is fun but never over the top or unbelievable in the part she is playing – to Diana Bang’s Tabby who is the friend forever exhausted at Ben’s antics and at having to bail him out of uncomfortable situations. Bang positively lights up the scenes she is in with a great presence and conviction in her delivery. And finally there is little Jena Skodje who only has a few brief scenes but delivers them with heart and a smile.
Entanglement is Jason James’ second feature as a director after helming 2013s That Burning Feeling and James shows he defiantly has ability behind the camera. His framing is precise, the editing his clean, nothing is wasted and there is lovely fairy tale like quality in every scene. James gets the shots and his actor’s deliver, nothing feels forced or rushed and everything comes, together solidly.
A huge round of applause must also go to the soundtrack of Entanglement, or at least the compilers of said soundtrack, which is filled with great vintage 1950s/60s tunes ranging from forgotten Soul numbers to Doo-wop melancholic melodies, the likes of Frank Fafara (familiar to fans of Bates Motel) to Clarence Nelson and a little Country thrown in for good measure. It is not your generic Spotify run of the mill playlist and shows careful thought by someone with an ear for great music. Well done and can there please be a release of the soundtrack, yours sincerely, a fan.
Entanglement is a lean story coming in at around 85 minutes mark; that is not a negative it has to be said. However, there are bigger films with bigger names and longer run times dealing with similar subjects that achieve far less. This is a drama with comedy, not the other way round and not a black comedy, because after all, life is a tragedy with extreme moments of drama and equally high moments of levity, that is life. Throw in some quantum physics, a little quirky surrealism romance, some ‘what-if’ destiny, (which does not make your head hurt as much as you might worry it is going to) and you have a great little Indie flick peppered with great moments, great performances and an engaging story.
Entanglement makes its US premiere in theatres today (9 February 2018) but no UK release date is yet planned. Check out the trailer below.