TIFF 2017: Life and nothing more Review

Contemporary World Cinema

There are a few good ideas for a movie in Antonio Ménedez Esparaza’s second feature film, Life and nothing more.  Unfortunately, it feels like Antonio couldn’t commit to one of those ideas and, as a result, the film and the kernels of good ideas all suffer.

As the movie begins it seems like a great story to follow would be that of Andrew (Andrew Bleechington) discovering who he wants to be in the world as a black teenager without a father figure or direction in life.  Later the film proposes that the real story should be about why Regina (Regina Williams) can’t get ahead with work or in her new relationship with Robert (Robert Williams) because of her troubled son, Andrew.  Then, far too late in the film, it’s made clear that it would have been good to see a movie about Regina crusading against Miami PD and some locals to get justice for her son, Andrew.  Even though these elements are introduced, they don’t have time to develop and create a strong core for the overall movie.

Esparza also runs into some technical difficulties.  The camera placement and sound design often do scenes a disservice.  During the first act where the movie is rapidly cutting from scene to scene trying to find something that will stick, it’s rare that you get to see the face of everyone speaking in a scene.  There always seems to be someone with their face obscured, completely off screen, or with their back to the camera.  The sound mix seems to be off too.  Often times lines are rendered unintelligible because the vehicles pulling into frame are too loud.  At one point the sound of a rocking chair drowns out dialogue. Sometimes the unconventional camera placement and loud background help create a great atmosphere so it isn’t clear if they are all intentional or not.  However, the overwhelming feeling throughout the film is one of distance and alienation which hinders your ability to connect to the characters and overarching themes.