Film Review: Entanglement

A suicide survivor tries to find meaning in his life by tracking down a woman his parents almost adopted decades earlier.
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In Entanglement, strong performances and a well-paced reveal of an intriguing premise unfortunately cannot compensate for a protagonist of such hollow narcissism that his psychological musings and his rom-com relationship with a pretty neighbor all ring ridiculous.

While Ben Layten (Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO's "Silicon Valley") recovers after a serious but unsuccessful suicide attempt, he learns that his parents almost adopted a baby girl before he was born, but had to give her up within a day or two. For reasons the movie doesn't deliver convincingly, Ben determines that his sorry life might have gone better with the guidance and companionship of a sister, and he goes to track down the now-adult girl. Abetting him is his neighbor Tabby Song (Diana Bang, memorable as the buttoned-up but passionate North Korean propaganda chief in 2014's The Interview), the kind of friend who has a key to your apartment and when bored might show up to clean it while you're out. None of this is the intriguing premise yet.

Ben keeps a string-and-pushpin diagram on one wall, believing that alternate universes are created with each decision we make. This is sort of an intriguing premise, but it's been done, in Sliding Doors and Run Lola Run (both 1998), The Family Man (2000) and other films, Broadway's If/Then (2014) and elsewhere. The intriguing part comes when Ben believes he's met his almost-sister, Hanna Weathers (Jess Weixler of AMC's "The Son"), and soon lapses into fantasy—they see stop-motion deer in some woods, or find themselves in a sudden world of fluorescent pink jellyfish while in a swimming pool—raising the question of whether Hanna is real or that Ben, off his meds, is hallucinating or that they're going back and forth between universes.

Director Jason James and screenwriter Jason Filiatrault nicely walk the tightrope of these disparate possibilities, and throw in subtle cues that keep one guessing; they also tweak the trope of quirky, streetwise Hanna as manic-pixie-dream-girl. But the unprepossessing Ben is so self-involved and so condescendingly brusque with friends and family that it's hard to care if he lives or dies—and impossible to believe that the adorable Tabby clearly has a thing for him.

The locales—Langley, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, British Columbia—make a suitably banal background that doesn't distract from the fanciful proceedings. There's no apparent reason, however, for Ben's story being set to a soundtrack consisting mostly of 1950s ballads. Indeed, we know almost nothing about Ben—what he does for a living, what he studied at school, his hobbies, nothing. There's some talk of quantum entanglement, in which pairs of photons, no matter their distance apart, are connected in complementary ways. But nothing ever comes of the idea. The filmmakers should have concentrated more on script mechanics than quantum mechanics.

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