SXSW 2022: A Lot of Nothing

Directed by: Mo McRae
Distributed by: TBA

Written by Maria Athayde


“A Lot of Nothing” tells the story of James and Vanessa, played by Y’lan Noel and Cleopatra Coleman, a married couple who live in Los Angeles. The story starts when James and Vanessa see coverage of a crime on live TV. Soon after, they come to realize that the crime was committed by their next-door neighbor Officer Brian, a cop, played by Justin Hartley. What follows is a journey of opposing viewpoints and past trauma as James and Vanessa confront their own reactions to the crime.

The crime in question is the catalyst for the majority of the movie. Vanessa expresses her frustration, with James, at seeing another child killed on TV. She says this is part of a larger cycle where someone gets killed and everyone just waits for the cop to be exonerated. James, on the other hand, is more skeptical and says they should wait to figure out what happened or until the investigation is finished before assigning blame. Vanessa is steadfast and thinks they should ‘do something’ about it. So she decides to draft a social media post to express her frustration. This is where the movie takes a turn. Vanessa decides to take matters into her own hands and kidnaps her neighbor Brian who committed the crime at gunpoint. In the meantime James’ brother Jamal, played by Shamier Anderson, and his pregnant fiance Candy, played by Lex Scott Davis, come over for dinner and things start to get more complicated.

Mo McRae makes an ambitious directorial debut feature in “A Lot of Nothing” but at times it does feel a little rushed. Some plot points have little to no follow-through like when James and Vanessa have an argument about the kidnapping incident. In passing, James mentions he is attending therapy to deal with the unnecessary chaos Vanessa creates. In another instance, Candy mentions she is not anti-vax but she’s just pro-natural immunity. There are also a series of microaggressions, that while not the main focus of the movie, James and Vanessa have to deal with at work that has no repercussions. There is just a lot going on at once, which can be a little distracting. All this chaos is punctuated with crisp cinematography in a movie that explores marriage, brotherhood, and race relations in modern America.

“A Lot of Nothing” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the SXSW Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

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